Playing with the impossible

The biggest challenge of our week in Morocco wasn’t the temperature (though it was really cold at night), the culture (despite the overzealous souk sellers) or the fact that it was our first time leading a retreat together (Jen and Amanda felt like friends I’d known forever). No, the biggest challenge was getting to grips with the instant film we were using.

We’d all rocked up with packets of Impossible film in our suitcases and the theme of the week quickly became How to Get the Best Out of the New Film. I’ve been eking out my remaining stash of original Polaroid film, not wanting to face the fact that my beloved film was no more, so I knew our retreat would be my chance to finally face reality and learn how to shoot with the new film. And learn I did…

Polaroid had had decades to perfect their integral film, so to expect the Impossible Project to have done the same in only two years is crazy. But they have achieved so much in such a short space of time. As many of the key chemicals used in the original Polaroid film are no longer manufactured, TIP has had to create their own instant film from scratch.

Every new batch of film is a leap forward from the last and I’m particularly impressed with how the Silver Shade films are progressing. I learned how to shoot on black & white film at college and have returned home excited to play with more of this film (PX600 and PX100). Without the emotional shorthand of colour to rely on, you’re left searching for light & shade and line & shape — I found the film worked best with strong compositions and punchy light.

Instant film is a physical, temperamental entity that requires patience and cunning to get it to do your bidding. The emulsion may crack (as you can see in the photo above). The photos need warmth to develop (cue 13 women warming their photos under their arms) and are so sensitive to light they must be shielded when they first exit the camera (the Impossible’s own darkslides worked best for me).

I shot this last photo in Le Cafe des Epices, the spot where all the tourists hangout, right in the middle of the medina. This isn’t the greatest shot in the world, but i love how the film really soaked up the sunshine, just like we were. The middle-aged couple sitting at the next table asked about my camera, intrigued that we were still able to find film for it (this wasn’t the first or last conversation I’d have about my camera that week — carrying an SX-70 is like walking around with a really cute show dog that everyone wants to stop and pet)

Moments later Abdul, the young and handsome rug seller, found me and asked if I’d be back the next day. But I’ll tell you his story tomorrow…

14 responses
  1. Cee

    Your pictures are so beautiful. The composition is wonderful and the flaws from the temperamental film just add to each one. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Stacey

    I always just want to soak up your posts! It makes me feel like I’m there :)

  3. barbara

    beautiful! love the info about TIP thankyou!!!

  4. amelia Critchlow

    so wish I’d been able to come! looks and sounds wonderful :)


  5. Ashley

    The new Impossible Film has certainly progressed a long way from where it started out. I’m still learning to use it, but I already love it.

  6. michelle gd

    love the glimpse and conversation you’ve offered here…

  7. Diana

    Can’t wait to hear this Abdul story! You did a beautiful job with the new film. I especially love how it captures the shine of the metal teapots in the first and last photo. It’s like a dreamy black and white world :-)

  8. Nina

    Oh, no pancakes… But, intrigue! Also, when all I could see on my blog reading list was the title and the first photo, I really thought this post was going to be about some kind of magical/other-worldly occurrence.

  9. Nina

    The blog I went to after yours also has some amazing photos on it today, thought you might like them: .

  10. Tina Bardenfleth

    So interesting to learn about the new film. I am curious to hear more also in regard to the Abdul cliffhanger :-) …

  11. Melinda @ Stupendous Joy

    Oooh, what fun. i love your description of your sx-70, it made me chuckle…. I’ll be back tomorrow to hear about Abdul.

  12. Lis

    Having noodled around with various incarnations of TIP film for a year now, I must say I am looking forward to hearing how you handle it! The test color shade is the best so far … I had packs of the previous color and black and white film that I took to Italy last summer and the Silvershade have all turned to rust and the color all baby blue. So far, the new stuff does seem more stable … but I do scan mine pretty fast in case of dramatic shifts. Not practical if you are traveling. And yes – the armpit is the way to go!

    Can’t wait to hear about all the adventures! xo Lis

  13. lisa-marie

    Thanks for the info on the Impossible film! I have an SX-70 and have been hoarding the last couple packs of film I managed to find. This is a great resource!

  14. Jade Sheldon

    I’m especially in love with that first shot. Cannot wait to read (and see) more about your trip!

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