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Artists Take Polaroids of the Digital World

The Impossible Project’s latest endeavor blends smartphone imagery with analog instant film technology.
October 8, 2015, 8:10pm
Delay Menforoy, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

Polaroid lives on, thanks in large part to the efforts of The Impossible Project, which seeks to preserve the analog technology. While original Polaroid enthusiasts have rejoiced over the format’s resurrection, the Impossible Project continues to push boundaries, most recently with its new yellow film stock. Now, with the Instant Lab Universal camera, the team is transforming smartphone images into singular instant film images.


The Instant Lab Universal camera and Instant Art Lab photos, courtesy of The Impossible Project

The Impossible Project’s Amy Heaton contacted 50 emerging and unknown artists for image submissions. The list of contributors runs the gamut from illustrators, to painters, glitch enthusiasts, and beyond. Even virtual artist and avatar LaTurbo Avedon contributed a selfie from what looks like inside one of her cyber clubs.

LaTurbo Avedon, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

The Impossible Project already had an established global network of analog photographers, but they thought that the more traditional methods of photography might not appeal to artists who found the medium too limiting.

Carolina R. Reunmayor, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

“The instant lab removes these boundaries and opens up new channels of experimentation for artists whose work is predominantly digital,” Heatson says. “I also liked the idea that the artists could create tangible smaller versions of their original art that would otherwise only ever live online—and see what they would do with that once it was transported to real life.”

Emi Haze, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

Heaton’s only selection criteria was that the artists’ images should bring out something interesting or unusual out in the analog chemistry of the film. “Strong colors, strange glitches, hand-painted images, anything that you wouldn't usually be able to photograph with your ordinary Polaroid camera and maintain the same level of detail,” she says.

Daria Golab, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

Heaton was prepared for the worst when she began putting the images through the Instant Lab Universal camera. Unsure if the film was capable of bringing out strong color, she feared the artists would be disappointed with the results if the colors were muted to the point where the artworks’ original concepts were altered.


But, alas, Heaton’s worst fears were allayed. The resulting images, a strange fusion of digital and analogue, look fantastic—a wonderful, hazy blur of of chemicals and binary. The images are currently on display on the Instant Lab Art tumblr, which Heaton felt was the most natural venue for the types of artists she picked.

Kyttenjanae, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

“It's where their own artworks already live online,” she says. “It's notoriously difficult to scan and display analog film in the online environment, as most people think it's just a digital image with a filter. For this particular project I found it interesting to play on that a bit—and unless you see the original artwork side by side with the instant film image it's hard to say which came first, which to me is the best result I could have hoped for.”

Toni Lange, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

In the near future, Heaton hopes to keep collaborating with artists for the Instant Lab Art project, as well as arrange an exhibition at the Impossible Project’s Berlin headquarters. There, she would like to address the topic of how “analog and digital can live in a state of comfortable symbiosis in the digital age”.

Matt Dooley, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

Louise Z. Pomeroy, courtesy of the artist and The Impossible Project

Click here to learn more about The Impossible Project.


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