Essay,  Joe & Rachael Projects

on owning a polaroid camera


Life with a polaroid camera is not exactly all it’s cracked up to be. You’d like to think one’s existence would suddenly be composed of pool parties with striped beach balls and lots of ice cream cones. You’d like think it would be a day-to-day of snap-crackle-pop dispensing, candid shots of joy and birthday cake sprinkling throughout your month.

In fact, it takes a little more. It takes guts, actually. And lots of failure. Countless snapshots have turned out crummy. Out of focus, misjudged lighting, baby leg darting away at the last second. Each of these efforts, lost to the serendipity known as ugh this one turned out crappy, is mourned for a minute or two and then quickly thrown away. You can’t keep the bad ones around, they’ll weigh you down. I worry that I’ll think of them next time, right before I click the trigger, and hesitate. Hesitation is probably a polaroid’s #1 enemy. But many have turned out transcendent: square glossy peeks into a past moment, turning the moment into something more significantly representative for the future, in a how we spend our days is how we spend our lives sorta way.


And then there’s that moment when you’ve run out of film and you have to invest in the next black box of slides, a few of them, God knows, are potential failures. Like buying new ink for a printer, or, if you’re like me, getting cash out of an ATM, you know it will get whittled away somehow, and probably in many meaningful and important ways and you’re not sure on what exactly, but the future looks promising and you want to be prepared.


And of course: there is that gratifying clink-mrrumph that sounds like a vacuum working backwards and then a shiny blank slate pops out, to the delight of adults and children alike. The pleasure of an instant artifact: my old old friend Katie just came for the weekend, and before she left I snapped a photo of her and Lux together, for Katie to jam between the pages of her Bible (Katie is Lux’s godmother after all). We take photos of the girls and slip them into thank you notes. They seem stronger when they’re sent out in the world that way. A pretty bottle tossed into the sea that says you knew me once and it was lovely. 




  • bridget

    i love the idea of taking snaps and sending them off into notes and such. i actually have a polaroid somewhere in the recesses of the house but once the film ran out, i never replaced it…

  • EmmaCameronSummer

    i have a polaroid somewhere in the basement (the oooooold kind) and you’ve inspired me to go dig it out! my 2 year old would LOVE it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *