Polaroid is one of the few brands that has been able to appeal to nearly every generation; it’s like the Tom Petty of photography. After a near fated doom, the resurgence of the instant analog film king has been doughty and met with a joyous cadence.
As the fallen titan regains popularity, Dutch filmmaker Willem Baptist has made a beautiful tribute to the brand, in the form of a new documentary, Instant Dreams.
Back in the day Polaroids could be found in the hands of enthusiasts that wanted to document their life in a way similar to the modern day Instagram. Professionals and students alike depended on the $3 Polaroids for its nearly instant feedback required to double check exposure settings and composition prior to inserting the E-6 film for the final capture.
In a world where immediacy now reigns supreme, the pop culture classic acts like a throwback to simpler times and waiting for the Polaroid to develop is met with giddy anticipation. For many, the memories and feelings associated with the history of the brand are viewed through rose colored glasses and the reality of its fate were forgotten.
The company that immortalized millions of lives and served as a medium of preserving history with tangible physical documents came face to face with its own mortality. During their prime Polaroid cameras were in the hands of millions and the company sold over a billion pictures a year. In 2008, Polaroid announced that it was going to stop production and to make matters worse, Fujifilm ceased production of the beloved peelback film in 2016. The mystical formula that defined and preserved a culture was essentially lost.
“At its peak Polaroid sold more than a billion photographs a year. It was just everywhere […] There’s tens of millions of Polaroid cameras out there waiting to be used again.”
Willem Baptist’s Instant Dreams appears to be a visual masterpiece that celebrates the history and future of the magic that is Polaroid. Baptist states that the film is his “cinematic ode to that longing for magic, mystery and a celebration of the dreams of the future that are interwoven with this medium.”