Pictures – in a flash

22 07 2011

Sandwiched somewhere in time between traditional film, Polaroid print film, and digital, there was a unique photographic medium: Polaroid Instant Slide Film. Introduced in the early 1980s, this allowed users to view 35mm colour, black & white, or line film transparency images in under 3 minutes – compared to an hour or more for conventional ‘E6’ process film, or weeks for Kodachrome, this was positively (sorry!) space-age.

Taking Polaroid’s idea of coating an exposed print with instant developer one stage further, this process required a Polaroid Instant Processor – a light-tight plastic box around 10″ long, and a roll of Polaroid Instant Slide Film. Each film came with its own ‘chemistry pack’, which was inserted into the Processor.  Cranking a handle wound the film onto a spool, along with a film-like leader, coated with instant developer, from the chemistry pack. Wait a minute or two, then reverse the direction of the hand crank. Open the Processor – now we have developed (and fixed) 35mm slide film. Incredible stuff, in those pre-digital days!

There were several types of film: black&white, colour, and something called PolaBlue, meant for photographing line drawings, producing white lines on a deep blue background. The best part about the b/w film was, it was silver-halide based, meaning that the final image could be toned exactly as though it were a print, on traditional b/w paper.

Wendy O shot on PolaPan

Wendy O (RIP), London 1985

 Wendy O’ Williams performing at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, 1985. Wendy was a larger-than-life, in your face kinda girl, so this treatment suited her perfectly: shot on Polapan 125asa, developed normally, then Polychromed & Solarised using a toning chemistry called Colorvir. 

Do I miss Polaroid instant slide? Undecided. It was around three times the price of a roll of Kodachrome, grainy as all hell, with unstable emulsion and occasional dud chemistry packs. Only in 35mm. But it was FUN!




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