Captured on (Instant) Film

At the Instant Film Society’s annual PolaCon, they take — and shake — actual Polaroid pictures to preserve the art of fast film.

Author: Casey Gale       

PolaCon 7

Date: Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2022
Location: Dallas and Denton, Texas
2022 Attendees: ~450
Average Attendees: 300+

Illustration by Carmen Segovia

Nearly everyone takes photos exclusively on their phone today, except perhaps the members of the Instant Film Society (IFS), which is dedicated to preserving the art of the Polaroid. Founded in 2012, IFS aims to increase the awareness, accessibility, and understanding of analog instant photography, and PolaCon, its annual celebration of all things instant film, is key to that effort.

“We always expect a mix of long-time experienced photographers and artists, as well as those who recently started shooting instant film,” Daniel Rodrigue, IFS cofounder, told Convene. “We plan workshops for beginners, as well as advanced techniques. Many attendees are full-time photographers, some are students, and for others, snapping instant film is a passionate hobby.”

The 2022 event kicked off in Dallas, where Rodrigue is a professor of journalism, photojournalism, and photography at Dallas College. Attendees were invited to join the 11th Annual Rain-or-Shine #PolaWalk at the State Fair of Texas, which honors the longstanding tradition of photographers meeting up for “photo walks” in picturesque locations. The PolaCon version of this focuses on instant-film photography of memorable locales.

Swap, Shop, and Snap

PolaCon’s activities then moved to the nearby town of Denton, where participants took part in a downtown mural walk, and where the bulk of the three-day event’s programming — including more than 20 demonstrations, educational talks, and panel discussions — took place.

Hosted on the Saturday afternoon of every PolaCon, the Zines & Things Swap Meet allows attendees to sell, swap, or trade “all kinds of cool instant-film-related photo books, zines, original instant film photography, Polaroid art, and small prints,” as well as film and used cameras, Rodrigue said.

Instant Art Form

The closing event was a gallery reception hosted at the University of North Texas CoLab. “Nearly every PolaCon, we work with a local gallery or venue to host an exhibition. For 2022, the exhibition featured a mix of different types of Polaroid photography meant to show off instant film’s potential in the hands of a dozen photographers,” Rodrigue said. “A lot of people think of Polaroids as just snapshots — something you would casually take with family or friends. But of course, some of our attendees and presenters elevate instant film to an art form.”

Casey Gale is managing editor at Convene.

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