The Breakeven of Nostalgia
Polaroid is dead. The last pack of Polaroid instant film was produced in 2008. The cameras became obsolete before that, when digital photography took hold.
But in the hearts of instant camera fans, and of hipsters and artists looking for a more tactile, analog experience, Polaroids still means something.
To Andre Bosman, Christian Lutz, and Florian Kaps, the death of the Polaroid business meant opportunity.
Their business, The Impossible Project, resurrects instant photography. They bought machinery from a Polaroid film processing plant in The Netherlands “for scrap value,” Lutz says, and started to produce instant film, using their own chemistry. (Bosman was previously a process engineer at Polaroid.)
This September, the venture released a digital-to-analog camera, the Instant Lab. It captures pictures taken on iPhones and prints them to their film. Why not just abuse a snapshot on Instagram and print that? Because the tactile, nostalgia value of a “Polaroid” is that much greater. The Kickstarter project to launch the Lab blasted past its $250,000 funding goal in two days.
Kaps told me that break-even is when the company sells a million films packs a year. Right now it’s running at about 700,000. Film packs are $24, for 8 photos. That’s how much customers will pay to express themselves through old analog technology: $3 a print. These prices and low volumes would never have worked for Polaroid. But for a weird startup built out of its ashes, they might.
The Story of the Death (and Rebirth) of Polaroid Film (Time)
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