Polaroids have been in and out of my life properly for more than a quarter of a century, and before that for ten more years in very occasional extended friends and family use. A wonder. A miracle. An instant photograph but an object. Magic that defied imaginations as much as the original magic lantern, the Television, Chad Valley super-8, the properly mobile 'phone, Skype video conferencing, or the digital camera have done as they arrived and settled in to our lives.
Polaroid photography would have been a boon during Chris Paul - The Science Years but a chunky and unbreakable Carl Zeiss fronted Praktika SLR and pongy darkrooms followed a largely Instamatic youth. But Chris Paul - The City Life Years, and The Rock and Roll Years that followed certainly saw Polaroids everywhere.
Our City Life snapper Kevin Cummins had special Polaroid backs I believe for both his SLR and large format cameras. The materials got cheaper in a last flush, bringing more use at home. Much much later the kids had a miniature version of the technology - an equivalent of the Chad Valley video camera I suppose - generating instant postage stamp sized images. If I've time I'll see what I can find in the vaults.
Anyways, I'm loving the Observer Art and Design celebration of the passing of the use by date of the last Polaroid stock in the world. Gordon Brown looks great in Rankin's set. And I'm quoting Rankin's caption in full below.
Gordon seems to have turned a corner on those Churchillian Black Dog rain clouds. Which is good. Good for Britain. Seeing as the Tory gentle Dr Jekylls are turning misanthropic Hyde before our very eyes. Mr Brown will need all the resilience and good humour he can muster to steer Labour to yet another historic etc etc.
People in Salford for example may not have enjoyed the ridiculous bejewelled melodrama and conspicuous un-consumption of those cheque waving days of summer but it may be that a not so dour Scot reminding them of the pickets' braziers outside Agecroft Colliery and the dark satanic reality of Tory-dom will work wonders for his pal Hazel's rehabilitation. Thatcher and Lamont and Tebbit all but destroyed life for the many (not the few) in this country.
We must remember this.
Rankin: Since launching style magazine Dazed and Confused with Jefferson Hack in 1991, Rankin has become a globally successful photographer, publisher and film director. 'With Polaroids it's like I can see someone between the shots – in this case Gordon Brown is friendly, then intense, then relaxed. We had a chat before starting; he was easygoing and natural. The shot of him on the chair, for instance, I could have made him look bad, but he didn't seem to care. He had no vanity whatsoever. He had a great way about him and a great smile, which is not what you're led to believe from the press and most photographs. Polaroids are kind of soft. They're a record of a certain moment which you can't take back or wipe out like digital. You find you get something brilliant by accident, they're a laugh in a way that digital photographs aren't. I used Polaroid as a test on fashion shoots until two years ago. I loved the format, but there's no use for it any more, sadly.'
Photograph: © Rankin