In 2008, I bought a Polaroid camera from a thrift store near Diamond Bar, California for $2. It remains to this day my best thrift store find. It was a point of pride: unanimously cool, appealingly retro and no one else had one. Sure, a pack of 10 shots cost me $22 and within a few months Polaroid ceased manufacturing the film. But in the mean time, it was like being a member of the secret instant film treehouse club. I followed the updates of The Impossible Project, filled an album with my pictures and felt like I had something special.
The rise of Instagram didn't kill instant film, but it did makes its revival unnecessary. Before the app changed the playing field, The Impossible Project was putting out some beautiful cameras and film packs while Polaroid rededicated themselves to their forte with a campaign helmed by Lady Gaga. Yet it was all for naught when nearly everything people liked about Polaroids was aped and improved upon by those bastards at Hipstamatic and Instagram: the character of the borders, the randomness of the focus, and the way it seemed to pull light from the air. The only thing they didn't have was the physical product, the picture in your hands, but like everything else digital we just stopped valuing solid objects.
I hated Instagram at first. It was an irrational, petty hatred; I knew that and gladly indulged. Part of it was obviously the opening of the gates that let all these kids into my secret treehouse. Whereas I had to sift through a pile of second hand crap and buy overpriced endangered film on the reg, every asshole from my high school suddenly achieved the artful character of instant film in their Facebook profile picture. Popularity is one of the stupidest reasons to dislike something, and I have a track record of it. Notably, I never signed up for a MySpace in its heyday, simply because everyone insisted that I needed one. (I jumped ahead to thefacebook and got to feel like an elitist early adopter.) With Instagram, the ship was already sailing, full steam ahead, and I was stuck in the past with a bulky camera that I couldn't buy film for.