The Polaroid SX-70 (or, The Price of Beauty)

I know, I know– “where the HELL is that next blogpost? It’s the only reason I bother waking up in the morning anymore!” Me too, dear reader, me too. A small update; I have found out the exact address of my apartment, but until I have more information I will leave that for another post, where I’ll tell you everything I know about Japanese apartments (but not my address, sorry!).

In the meantime, let’s call this Man Behind the Myth: Part II, where I share with you one of my least lame hobbies: Polaroid photography.

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This is the Polaroid SX-70, one of my most prized possessions. It is a SLR (single-lens reflex) camera with manual focus, with an electronic eye that can slow shutter speed to over 10 seconds.

mucho bettero

One of its most unique features is that it freaking FOLDS, into a semi-portable 3-pound brick that’ll weigh down one side of my coat but look completely badass when I take it out. It was released in 1972, where rumor has it, Edwin Land, in a very Steve Jobs-ian flourish, had a special suit constructed with extra-large pockets in order to hold the thing, so that he was able to take it out of his jacket during a presentation and thus prove its portability to audience members.

The great thing about Polaroids is twofold: there is something very spontaneous/organic about it, and it makes everything look vintage-y, hiding my lack of actual photographic ability. And of course, you will always have the physical picture to hold. Sure, you can print out a digital picture, but it was not taken and printed in that very moment. And if you consider a digital printout (even if “instant”) the same as a Polaroid, then people like you will be rounded up and arrested when the day comes. I’m looking at you, Instax Square.

Cinderella Castle
Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland.

This is one camera of several that I own, the other three being a Polaroid 660, Polaroid SX-70 box-type (sometimes called the Land 1000), and though not a Polaroid, but still in instant format, a Fujifilm Instax mini90.

Hiraoka Shrine
Hiraoka Shrine, Japan. Fun fact: when going up or down a shrine’s steps, always walk on the sides, as the center is reserved for the gods.

The hobby comes at a high cost, working out to a whopping $3 per picture. It can even creep up to $4, as the SX-70 has no built in flash, so you have to buy disposable, one-time use exploding flashbulbs that cost $1 per flash. You could also buy an electronic re-usable one for $100. The reason for this is that the real Polaroid company went bankrupt in 2004. Another company took their place, but apparently lost all the chemical formulas to make the film, so their profits are basically funding R&D into figuring out how to make actual, authentic Polaroid film that works as it should (it still doesn’t quite; for example it still takes about 20 minutes to develop).

Larry's Party

But the price of beauty is worth it, because everyone and everything looks great within those white borders. Of course, you can get lots of duds too. I’ve thrown away more pictures than I can count, but sometimes imperfections can make the image all the more interesting– in the below picture, there’s a weird strip of light in the middle, and what looks like a chemical spill from improper development along the bottom. All in all, it’s an expensive, frustrating hobby, but being able to hold some of my best works in my hand, knowing that that particular moment is frozen in time, that its existence and the capture of it are intertwined, makes it all worth it.

Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier.

6 thoughts on “The Polaroid SX-70 (or, The Price of Beauty)

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