Rows and rows of old, orphaned Polaroid cameras sit on wall-to-floor shelving. Dozens of light-washed, square 3x3 ⅛ photographs are taped to office walls.The Impossible Project’s headquarters in New York City merely whet the appetite for what the company’s work entails—resurrecting the art of instant photography.
The Impossible Project, based in the eastern Netherlands and founded by Florian ‘Doc’ Kaps and André Bosman, is currently producing the world’s newest generation of instant cameras and film. And after saving the last Polaroid production plant in the world, they have their work cut out for them. Not only are they refurbishing Polaroid’s remaining iconic cameras, they are also designing a new line of analog cameras that meet the needs of the modern photographer, bringing instant film into the 21st century—a market they were told was ‘impossible’ to succeed in.
David Boone, Director of Customer Service at The Impossible Project Netherlands, explains, “This is a really magical company. When Polaroid stopped producing instant film, they told everyone that the market doesn’t work anymore and closed down. And initially, Impossible did face many challenges—like trying to make instant film without Polaroid’s original documents. That’s like baking a cake, but being told you can’t use sugar, flour, or water. We had to reinvent the process of engineering instant film. It’s wild.”
An Origin Story: The ‘Instant’ Monopoly
At it’s height in the 1950s, Polaroid sales exceeded $23 million and bragged over 4,000 dealers selling their cameras, film, and accessories in the US alone. And by the 1960s and 1970s—when revered artists like Andy Warhol and Chuck Close became avid users of their products—Polaroid could be found in 50% of all American households. But when Polaroid repeatedly failedto master the growing market of digital photography, the household name eventually claimed bankruptcy in February 2008.
Instant film seemed to be a lost cause—until the great Polaroid auction of 2010. More than a thousand Polaroid photographs were sold. And when a startlingly beautiful image by Ansel Adams, “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park,” was purchased for a record-breaking $722, 500, the photography community saw evidence that instant film hadn’t lost its allure.
Dozuki + The Impossible Project
So how does a small startup like The Impossible Project take on an impressive, 70 year-old legacy like Polaroid’s? Passion, vision, and really great documentation.
The folks at Dozuki, wanting to help make this impossible mission possible, were thrilled to partner up with The Impossible Project in 2013. Within just a few months, Impossible’s team built an extensive set of electronic work instructions for assembling their new analog camera: The Instant Lab.
The Instant Lab (released August 2013) is an instant camera that—without the use of Bluetooth or WiFi—develops photographs with the classic Polaroid aesthetic directly off of iPhones. “It’s not a fancy printer,” Boone says of the pilot product, “It’s chemistry. It has a lens, and when you attach the iPhone to it, it literally exposes the image onto the film. We’re getting to do things that weren’t available with old Polaroid films, like double exposure. This process is an entire art and people are achieving some crazy photos.”
Manufacturing this hybrid device requires an attention to detail and standardization that traditional documentation software can’t offer. Boone smiles, and shaking his head, explains, “We were using the basic Microsoft Office. We would create the work instructions in Word and Powerpoint, and then print them from that. Dozuki has made the whole process a lot easier. Because we don’t just want to be paperless for the environment’s sake, we want to be more efficient in our production.”
As a company that uses six sigma lean manufacturing process, The Impossible Project’s goal is produce a quality device as efficiently as possible. To do that they are leveraging a variety of Dozuki’s features: including theprerequisite feature to break up processes into the smallest elements of work, the bill of materials feature to list their array of parts and tools, as well as the in-line data capture feature to collect production data within their electronic work instructions. “We’re a very small company and in many ways we’re replacing what Polaroid was 6+ years ago, which operated on a completely different scale,” says Frank Love, Impossible USA’s Camera Resource Manager. It’s essential that their documentation can effectively streamline the weight of their massive project.
Here at Dozuki, we work with a range of different companies that hail from all industries. And The Impossible Project is one of those unique companies whose short, but powerful background is an inspiration to our own team as we continue developing our platform. We are always seeking ways to help designers, engineers, and manufacturers, like the ones at Impossible, do what they do best—create.
Stay tuned as The Impossible Project via Twitter or Facebook as they continue to develop their instant camera line. And make sure to check in with Dozuki on our growing variety of tools and features for your company’s documentation.