The return of Polavision?

From: Tom B Whiteside (email suppressed)
Date: Wed May 14 2008 - 07:34:49 PDT

        I, for one, am still lamenting the demise of my beloved
Polavision, untimely plucked (circa 1977??) from the very cutting edge of
technology and from the cusp of The Best Thing Ever in the World of Art,
bar none. Nothing was quicker, nothing gave those overextended whites
and bulletproof blacks (and precious little else) like Polavision......
ahhh, can't I find a bunch of fellow Fellows on Framewerx who weep at
night as I do, sorrowful for the loss of our lovely Polavision? I curse
the wicked cruelty of scratching out a living beneath the crushing weight
of the fickle Corporate World. Edwin Land, sorrowful extremis! Plus, there
WAS an additive color film stock, and it was Polavision!! Rejoice!! Now we
have all of our facts straight!! (Cue the fanfare.)
        I still have a camera, xerox copy of the operating manual, and one
unopened pack of film. Dare I try? Dare I attempt to make THE BEST MOVIE
EVER, AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE, TOO on this fragile and preciously
antiquated photochemical product? Why not? Would it come out blank?
Probably. Oh, for the glory and adventure of it all. I gotta work on my
golf swing. Plus, there is the important annual Polavision Film Festival
in Kuala Lumpur. See you there!

        On a more serious note, I join the overwhelming number of people
sorry to see motion picture Kodachrome die. If anyone wants to go to
extreme measures to keep it alive, more power to them. (We probably all
have friends who do crazier things than that, come on.) The Chromatic
Landscape series I shot in the 1980's would have been impossible with any
other stock. And while some of the prints have faded, the originals are
still bold and shocking in the color department, just like I like 'em.
Grain is supertight. It was my favorite film stock. Despite my grief and
disappointment, I long ago came to the conclusion that life can continue.

        There are also, quite importantly, the home movies that have not
faded. Not just mine, but everyone's, and I'm guessing that means
millions. Yes, it is nostalgia, but it is also an important part of life.
This is not canned nostalgia slickly created from some anonymous home
movies for the purpose of selling hamburgers or life insurance on teevee,
this is a unique and uncanny "presence of the past" in my life. The
received notion is that home movies are "grainy, faded, scratched" -
that's the kind of thing you hear in the popular press. In some cases that
might be true; but it is certainly not true in most cases when the stock
was Kodachrome. When I look at the Kodachrome slides and movies of my
children at ages two or three (they are now 23 and 25) I don't see some
imperfect image from long ago, a ghostly weak image changed by time, a
"grainy, faded" scene. I see a ridicuously little Ripley (for quite some
time now he has been taller than me) in that bright blue striped shirt,
all snaggle toothed and goofy like he was back then. Alice has the little
baby girl hair she had for so long, and it is luminous on the screen
exactly the way it was when it was captured that day in the backyard, the
sun was just so. The truth and veracity of those images, today, is unlike
anything else I can conjure in all of fatherhood. The Agfa super8 from
that era does have a nice patina (and perhaps that's a polite way of
saying that it has faded tremendously) and I can enjoy that, too. But I do
like the way the Kodachrome hues, contrast and permanence have kept that
point in time alive and robust and present. It's physical, it's optical.
It's not a new technology but it sure was a good one.

        Here's my most recent disappointment in this realm - now that
Polaroid 600 film (for the Sun Camera) is going to disappear, I've been
looking for a great "close-out" bargain. Back when regular 8 Kodachrome
was discontinued in the early 1980's, I found two bricks of it for sale at
a K-Mart in Fayetteville, a dollar a roll. I spent $40 and had film stock
for the next several years, it wasn't even out of date. It was a great
bargain. So I've been hoping to find a similar deal on Polaroid 600, but
the only place around here that has any is Target, plenty in stock but
it's $16 a pack, up a dollar from last year. Fuckers.

        - Whiteside

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.