December 19, 2008

Poladroid... Polaroid...

Jen Bradford emails about Poladroid, freeware that turns a digital photo file into an image that resembles an SX-70 type Polaroid photograph.

Here, you can see Jen's adorable doggie, Louise. (Does she also have a dog named Thelma? Or perhaps George?)

Now, I watched the little video demonstration here. It's sort of charming the way the software gives the impression of the image coming out of an SX-70 type Polaroid and developing in stages, but I got annoyed by the simulated shaking of the photographs. I know the song. (It was "spazzy with electrifying multiplicity" -- 5 long years ago.) But you're not supposed to shake SX-70 Polaroid pictures:
"In fact, shaking or waving can actually damage the image. Rapid movement during development can cause portions of the film to separate prematurely, or can cause 'blobs' in the picture."...

Polaroid said its film should be laid on a flat surface and shielded from the wind, and that users should avoid bending or twisting their pictures. Of course, "lay it on a flat surface like a Polaroid picture," doesn't sound nearly as cool.
Before the SX-70, the rectangle that emerged from the camera was not a sealed packet containing the chemicals that developed the photograph. It looked like standard photographic paper, and you had to wipe a wet chemical across it to make it develop. [CORRECTION: The wiped-on chemical was the fixer.] People shook it to try to dry it off. But if it's an SX-70 photograph, there's nothing to dry. You look like an idiot shaking it. It's like drying off your hands after splashing around in Koi Pond.

I remember the original SX-70 commercials, with Laurence Olivier, acting like the new device was a landmark in the culture of the western world. I still have the SX-7o camera my parents bought. I haven't opened it up since long before Polaroid stopped making the film.

By the way, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy -- again -- yesterday.

And then there's this guy who started taking a Polaroid picture every day and kept going until the day he died:
Yesterday I came across a slightly mysterious website — a collection of Polaroids, one per day, from March 31, 1979 through October 25, 1997. There’s no author listed, no contact info, and no other indication as to where these came from. So, naturally, I started looking through the photos. I was stunned by what I found.In 1979 the photos start casually, with pictures of friends, picnics, dinners, and so on....
Here's the website with all the pictures. Random example:



There must be thousands of people these days who make a point of taking a photograph every day. I'll bet there are thousands of blogs that have a photo of the day -- even thousands that have a self-portrait of the day every day -- which would be especially easy using Photo Booth on a Macintosh.

But there was a time when the Polaroid camera was the epitome of easiness....

21 comments:

American Liberal Elite said...

Actually, I think that the developer was in the film - the wipe thingy contained a fixer to stop the developing process.

Simon said...

Semi-OT - I don't know about the poladroid widget, but I do like the first piece that they have playing in the background.

Ann Althouse said...

ALI -- yes, I remember that now.

AllenS said...

I have a question, Professor. What happened to the fisheye lens? You haven't used it for quite a while. I don't miss it. Just curious.

Ann Althouse said...

Have you noticed that I've taken very few pictures lately. Not enough to see. Very few hours of light in the day. Everything's dull looking right now.

EDH said...

Ann said...

but I got annoyed by the simulated shaking of the photographs.


There's an old saying, confined mostly to the men's room, "more than two shakes and then you're playing with yourself."

Seemed appropriate.

rhhardin said...

I took an 1860's photo of the oldest college building long ago, using a pinhole in a box and a sheet of Kodak polycontrast paper, that was then used to make an overexposed contact print, which was developed very quickly and fixed with a nice brown splotchiness, and then dog-eared.

To this day it's probably in one of the oldest library books awaiting discovery.

rhhardin said...

I keep up daily photos, recently of dog plus the Lake Erie perpetual overcast.

When the lake freezes in January, it clears up down here.

This pic yesterday was nice; in flyover country they can leave packages on a mailbox and it's there when the owner gets home.

siyeh pass said...

I've got one of those pre-SX70's, with dried up tubes of fixer and everything. Got it from my mom, who was cleaning out closests recently. Sounded kind of cool to have, but I'm not sure what to do with it now. Nice case - my 20-something daughter wants it for a purse...

Bob said...

In my Navy boot camp, the shrewdest guys in the barracks bought Polaroid cameras and lots of film, and charged $5 per picture to sailors wanting to send pics home to the folks. One guy made more selling photos than he earned in a month from his Navy pay.

Lem said...

I'm going to be honest.

In my mind I seem to connect Polaroids with sex for some reason..

Polaroid porn.

I know, I need help ;)

JohnAnnArbor said...

I wonder if any small company will ever try to make Polaroid film packs, now that Polaroid has stopped and presumably would not object on patent/proprietary grounds. The process is complicated, and the market is small, but I bet it isn't zero. But there is a sizable nostalgia market for using old photo processes.

Jen Bradford said...

I generally get a handful of visitors per day, so I knew something must be afoot - an Altalanche? Althousefire? Thanks for the mention. The internet makes insomnia more fun, I think.

YAMB said...

Photophlagellation--waving a polaroid in the air under the impression that that will make it develop faster.

Jen Bradford said...

p.s. Lem - it's a 70's thing, I don't think it's weird at all. I associate polaroids with sleazy fashion and bad behavior myself. (With apologies to pals who are devoted to Polaroid as an artform...)

Michael said...

Isn't that Ali MacGraw of "Love Story" in the ad? I'm pretty sure that it is.

BJM said...

Why wouldn't you use Photoshop or the photo editing tool that comes bundled with every digital camera and printer nowadays?

It's pretty simple to create the Polaroid white frame, or cut and paste from the web and no orphan software with which to deal in the future.

MrBuddwing said...

Prof. Althouse:
[Y]ou're not supposed to shake SX-70 Polaroid pictures ...

I did not know that. Never used an SX-70. A long, long time ago I owned a Polaroid camera which produced photos that would indeed dry more quickly if you flapped them. (And by the way, the wipe-on fixer was for black & white only, not color.)

Too bad about the SX-70 - it kind of ruins the opening scene of the movie MEMENTO, in which Guy Pearce is flapping an SX-70 photo which slowly undevelops before our eyes (kind of a visual metaphor for the character's memory problem).

Original George said...

If Apple doesn't rush out an el cheapo computer to compete with netbooks, it's going to end up like Polaroid.

In today's economy, fewer and fewer people are going to spend a premium on a computer when cheap is the new cool.

JohnAnnArbor said...

George, people have been writing Apple's obit like that for decades, now. Eventually, they may even be right.

Joan said...

There must be thousands of people these days who make a point of taking a photograph every day. I'll bet there are thousands of blogs that have a photo of the day...

Of course, but Nina's is the best. (You already knew that.)

Lem, no need to be embarrassed. Polaroids have a sheen of sleaziness no matter how artistic they're supposed to be.