A Short Conversation with Florian “Doc” Kaps about Instant Film

Analog photography has made a comeback in big ways–with digital photography making things less personal and more fleeting there’s obviously a need and want for something that’s truly an original. Companies like The Impossible Project, Lomography, and others are doing well. And a new book by Florian “Doc” Kaps called Polaroid looks to give us the history and story of the medium.

Mr. Kaps and his team were adamant about preventing Polaroid’s extinction in 2008 with The Impossible Project, and in this book he collects over 250 Polaroids to tell the story of the medium. From Edwin Land’s development of instant film in the 1940s to its resurgence today, Doc explores Polaroid’s influence on visual culture through found portraits, anthropology, erotica, fashion, and fine art.

And more importantly: the inventor of the Polaroid was actually a woman.

How did you first get into photography?

Doc: That was during my job at the Lomographic society where I was first dealing with old russian night vision devices and then step by step fell in love with analog photography.

What made you want to get into instant film photography?

Doc: I was looking for the most analog and real sort of photography still around in 2003 during the digital revolution and discovered Polaroid photography for me – the one and only medium where you hold the chemistry laboratory in your hand and can follow the photos’ development process right in front of your eyes. This independency from old fashioned development labs combined with the magic of analog is still the winning combination for me

Of course, you know quite a bit about the history of the medium, and in your book you talk about how Edward Land wasn’t the founder of Instant photography, but instead the one who made it commercially successful. Care to elaborate?

Doc: I think it’s important to know that Edwin Land was a truly brilliant mind. Both as inventor as well as marketing genius and storyteller. That said, he did not have to start the whole development of instant photography from scratch as many incredible scientists already had developed important key components of this system long before Land. Most importantly a woman called Edith Weyde. Surprisingly Land never officially connected the success of his work to this brilliant lady.

We’ve seen digital photography and camera sales seemingly decrease in the past few years yet Instant film is still rocking. Why do you think this is? Do you think that the magic that instant film conveys has evolved in a way yet still stayed core to its values?

Doc: With everything becoming more and more digital, analog technologies obtain a completely new sense and become even more dear and popular to people. In the end, we’re all analog creatures, seeking physical, tactile and meaningful means of expression. I believe that the rediscovery of analog (instant photography) has just started! Just look at the incredible comeback of vinyl records all over the world.

How do you think Instant film is going to evolve in the next five years? What big trends will be popping up? Any ideas? Do you think any of it has to do with people paying for an interpersonal experience vs what they can see on a digital screen?

Doc: In my opinion the next step will be the rediscovery and spreading of high valuable instant photography next to the toy snapshot approach of FUJI. Believe me, the new future of instant photography has just started and I already have many concepts for possible next steps in my head but I hope you can understand that not yet I can share them.

We know that you’re trying to work with New55 on a replacement for Fujifilm Pack Film. Have any updates yet?

Doc: Unfortunately I do not have any precise updates for you. Once again everything seems to be a little more impossible than hoped for. But one thing is for certain: We will not give up hope!!!

What are your personal favorite Instant film cameras and what about them really captivates you?

Doc: The big love of my camera life is still the one and only SX-70 camera. For me this is the most beautiful, most practical and most revolutionary camera of all times.