When the Polaroid film corporation decided to cease producing new film for its analog instant cameras in 2008, many took this as a sign of the times: the full ascendancy of digital photography and the inevitable death of instant analog photography as a medium once the last of the remaining film was gone.
A small group of dedicated individuals refused to accept what the majority of the world thought had seemed certain. Four months after the closing of the Polaroid factory in the Netherlands, a new company emerged from the ashes to carry on the work of making moments tangible in a flash. Because their task was largely considered to be impossible--the materials used to make the old film being no longer available-- the company was named The Impossible Project.
Founded by ten former Polaroid employees, The Impossible Project experimented with using different materials to make new film for the 300,000,000 existing Polaroid instant cameras around the world. In 2009 the factory was fired up again. In 2010 the first new film--a silver monochrome--was released. A year later there was color film, more camera formats were supported (notably the 600, although older models are also included) and a wide variety of backgrounds were available. By now, the company has more than doubled in size and continues to grow.
This new film is not exactly cheap: expect to pay about 3 to 4 USD per shot. But considering the costs and inconveniences of sorting, storing and printing digital prints, the immediacy granted by instant analog photography makes sense to those who wish to simply disconnect. In a world where any special effect may be suspected of having been photoshopped, instant analog photography will always carry a certain cachet.
Already there have been a number of international photography exhibitions using the new film as fine art photographers have framed many an amazing scene with their trusty old instant cameras.
You may find this new film from The Impossible Project's website (listed on the link at the top of this page) or at a select few camera shops (which themselves are a dying breed) should your area happen to have one which happens to carry products from The Impossible Project. Do take care to select the proper film for your camera.
Follow the instructions for your new film carefully, as it is made with different materials and no longer has a removable protective sheet. Shaking the pictures is not necessary but it is imperative to shield the film well from light in order for the film to develop well. The Impossible Project sells a "frog tongue" which is highly recommended—it will help protect the picture before you remove it from the camera. I have found that removing the picture in a dark room and placing it in a drawer or box for 24 hours helps the picture develop best. Direct sunlight can ruin the image.
Thanks to the bold drive and vision of the folks behind The Impossible Project, all of the old Polaroid instant analog cameras collecting dust in closets, attics, basements, thrift stores and garage sales may now continue to record the future.
You can hear an audio interview with one of the Impossible Project's factory workers here.
Here's an article (with digital photographs of the Impossible Factory) about the company's story (fairly similar to this one but a little different) and which also explains the company's prototype for a device that attaches to an iPhone to print pictures.
Also, flickr group devoted to instant film.