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MY FIRST TIME SWIMMING IN THE MURKY TEAL WATERS OF POLACOLOR 669 FILM!
Updated: Sep 15, 2022
Some days I sit and wonder what I will do with my bad self. I look around at cameras that are at this point so bountiful they are like physical representations of dreams I’ve given up on or thoughts I once had of things to do that I let slowly drift from one ear and out the other. Little mechanical reminders, collecting dust. I look at books, the TV, my shoes, and so on, trying to decide what the route I take shall be. Will it be a creative one today, or will I laze about in the lukewarm stagnant, and shallow waters of camp 'No Ambition' thread bare flags a wavin? Will it be an indoor day or an outdoor day? The options hover in the air and the air leaves them hanging there as this city fills with smoke from the fires of Oregon, California, and Idaho.
About two weeks ago, I decided to look into other peel-apart films outside of Fuji FP100c and the others in that family. I ended up coming across a seller on the site I sell on who had a lot of film for sale. I found a box of 20 sheets of Polaroid Polacolor 669 film for $40 and I bit. The version of Polacolor 669 that I got was released under the name Polacolor 669 ER, in the 1990's up through 2008 with an iso/asa of 80. Polaroid also made 669 SILK/669S which had a Matte finish, and also 669 HS.
The Culprit. Polaroid Colorpak II.
Being gifted a box of broken cameras a few months ago, and finding out that the Polaroid Colorpack II buried at the bottom still works, just days after receiving the Polacolor, was truly amazing. I cleaned out the corrosion on the battery terminals and hefted all that plastic and felt its' cheap oddly shaped beauty. There is some metal in fact, such as the film cartridge holder innards, the door clasp, and the one strap lug.
The sky outside is a gray orange, textured air, thick and terrible, but today after doing my looking and pondering, I went outside and made 3 more photos because I wanted to see more of what this lovely old film could do. Light hitting this 22-year expired, maybe dry film through this cheap plastic lens, the dusty camera barely cleaned, yanked out, and left between two tiles for an unknown amount of time, just winging it with development, there are nothing but surprises in store! One of the first things I noticed was with light, the lighter the better. You would think that would be obvious, and it was, but I took a few photos indoors with only a little table lamp and an overhead light on anyway. An image appeared, but it looks like the subject is slowly appearing out of a shadow realm.
Sharpe, Painting, Face Isolated. Dev. time 1.5 min. Polaroid Polacolor 669.
Original, Painting, Face Isolated. Painting by Sally Jablonsky, you can find her work here: https://www.thetryhardersociety.com
The second thing I noticed was needing longer development time. This film develops in 60 seconds, or at least it used to. For the first few photos I took I let them develop inside a book for about 2 minutes, quickly realizing that was not enough time at all. I went for 5 minutes on the next few, and the thing that I saw pop up with the next images was that these prints lean heavily into the blue and green color spectrum. Yellows show up but pink and reds and so on are non-existent.
Flowers, Yellow and Pink, Dev. time 5 min. Polaroid Polacolor 669.
Android Photo for comparison.
I have made 8 photos so far, and I am actually quite pleased with the warped reality they seem to embrace. This film is one that people use to make transfers with, which is amazing, and the way these expired, not fully responsive/reactive chemicals spread and hold the image is similar. The transfers look a bit more like fabric, or dried flower petals with an image on them, with the potential for transparent folds and layers and such, but I am not at all disappointed with how these are turning out. I wish that this film was cheaper, it was still made, and I wish that not just Fuji FP 100c was brought back, but all peel-apart films. These are such beautiful ways to make an almost instant print, where you get to feel the gloss of the image and see those rich colors:
Sun Flowers in the yard, Dev. time 5 min. Polaroid Polacolor 669.
Same flowers, different orientation, Android phone.
a print you can hand to someone that looks absolutely stunning framed right out of the camera! There are great examples on sites such as https://www.flickr.com where users share their lovely work and you can see more of what this film is capable of, expired of course. One such person on flickr, ‘Andy Jenkins’, has shared some images and the reds are present, yet the all-encompassing color is still a heavy blue/green/purple cast. They used a Graflex Crown Graphic camera, so their images are much sharper and show variation, having much more depth of field and contrast. We all know these films are special, and the ways to harness their magic are numerous, even if what is left is but a whisper of what it was in their prime. I highly recommend keeping your eyes peeled…wink wink, for any Polaroid peel apart that isn’t ridiculously overpriced. I would also suggest anything older than 1995 is probably not worth trying (but you be the judge), even if it was refrigerated. I personally won’t be buying anything that old unless it is guaranteed that it has been refrigerated (not frozen) and stored safely.
Sallys' hand, and sunflowers, double exposure, Dev. time 2.5 min. Polaroid Polacolor 669.
These films will probably never come back, at least not in the same way, I mean look at polaroid today as opposed to what it was. Not saying they aren’t doing the work, but it is nowhere as reliable, or as high of quality. I have used new polaroid film (non-peel apart), which is way overpriced, 8 sheets for over $30, and gotten results that look similar to this 22+ year-old film that barely works. That to me is a testament to the longevity of the old stuff. Anyway, if you find some out there among the rubble of films long gone, I hope it works and you get to have fun dancing around while you wait to split the sheets and see what awaits you. That is the glory of the mystery in film photography after all, right?
More Sunnies, Dev, time 4 min. Polaroid Polacolor 669.
More Sunnies again, dev. time 3 min. Polaroid Polacolor 669.
Sallys' papers, Dev. time 1 minute, first frame, Polaroid Polacolor 669.
EDITOR IN CHIEF: Sally Jablonsky