The Joy of (Fake) Polaroids

I never had a Polaroid camera. In fact, I have no recollection of ever pushing my little trigger finger into the big red button of someone else’s Polaroid camera, though I’m sure I did. Or at least I must have watched someone else do it and heard that whizzing sound as it spit out a photo waiting to be shook. Polaroid was nothing short of magical. And still, at 28, I don’t have the magic.

But I do have a smartphone. I am steering through the new millennium with a phone that that is “smart,” though never as smart as when I’m using it. And smart as I am, I know a bit of magic when I see it. Magic that was once only available via toy camera. Magic in the form of an app that takes Polaroids. Sort of.

I don’t have an iPhone, but that’s where it started. At my daughter’s first birthday, I tinkered with Hipstamatic on a friend’s iPhone. Hipstamatic is an app that takes digital photos that look analog, like those from Polaroid and toy cameras. I spent the late moments of the party with a phone in front of my face, carefully framing and snapping photos, and then ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the results.

To be honest, I was in my own little world, and it was great. Though I’m an amateur photographer, I take it pretty seriously. But something about that little phone app brought me a different kind of joy, a new kind of satisfaction that I wasn’t used to. So I downloaded FX Camera, a comparable app for my Droid, and thus began the obsession with snapping camera-phone Polaroids.

Concurrent to ’Roid Week on Flickr, I gave my DSLR the week off and took my daily photos with my phone. A lot of photos. Probably more than I should admit. I couldn’t stop pulling my phone out and snapping fake Polaroids – of a street sign, of my daughter, of a football practice at the school around the corner. They look aged and worn. Heck, they just look cool.

I know it’s not the same as using a real Polaroid camera. There’s no whizzing, no waiting, no holding the corner and flapping the developing shot. But I am an adult who doesn’t have a Polaroid camera. And though that could change at any time, the amount of delight I’ve gotten from this silly little smartphone app is worth its weight in instant film.

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