Polaroids: a charming way to live more in the moment

Phoebe Vo, Staff Writer

Art by Ella Jiang

Homecoming night entails many things. Dressing up, going out to eat, dancing, hanging out with friends—but most time-consuming is picture-taking. It is an essential part of the event, and to honor it, I felt inclined to buy film and take my small polaroid with me to the dance. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions I made that night. 

It is astounding to me how different a polaroid can feel in comparison to a digital photograph. In the moment, it seems no different: gathering in front of the camera, putting on a somewhat forced smile as you supposedly “capture the moment candidly,” but with a polaroid, it somehow seems to make the picture actually genuine. The moment I took the photo out, I saw all of my friends’ eyes light up. In taking pictures, I saw them dawn wide, authentic smiles out of pure excitement for the film that would slowly pop out after taking a photo and stare longingly as I tucked the film in a dark place at the bottom of my bag, waiting for it to develop. And once it did, they looked at it as if they were a child being gifted a new toy. 

The functions of the camera as well, specifically, the lighting from the flash combined with the aesthetic of the film automatically makes every picture look absolutely stunning. You can change the settings as well, making it so in any kind of weather: sunny, cloudly, nighttime, or even inside your house—it still gives you a beautiful picture.  The camera itself is the perfect mixture of vintage and retro vibes, something our modern era always strives for, while also being efficient and easy to use, compared to other technology from the past. Although, unlike phones and other cameras now, you are not able have multiple of the same photo, it is not a flaw. The singular copy of the image makes it so much more special, as you are the only person who has this photo and it is your own, unique piece of history, no one else’s. 

The entire process seems tiring and inefficient compared to just a normal photo, but I feel that is what makes people so drawn to polaroids. Just waiting for the film to develop and coming out with a one-of-a-kind picture that could never be replicated, helps you live more in the moment, which is something we lose by taking pictures with our phones. You cannot retake the same picture over and over again or endlessly edit it, you have to accept it for what it is. And in this, it removes all external factors for taking a picture and it makes you accept the moment as how it is; unedited and raw. 

 We have developed such a culture of forcing ourselves to look happy and taking so many photos, but forgetting what the purpose of a photo is supposed to be: a captured moment of the precious, happy memories. Polaroids bring us back to that with aesthetic, charming photos that capture the true moment, rather than just the perfect picture we want to see. A one of a kind memory that is unaltered and real, and in that, it makes us smile when we look back on them, as we relive the moment it happened. 

I hope that someday in the future, while I am unpacking my childhood bedroom, I will find these pictures buried in the small box under my bed, and they will bring me back to the happy memories I made this year.