Photographers from California, Ohio, New York and other parts of the United States came to Denton this weekend for a unique instant film and photography convention.
Hosted by the Instant Film Society, PolaCon is a three-day instant film convention with educational opportunities and activities for its attendees. Artists attend PolaCon for more than 20 workshops, photo walks, demonstrations and other photography-related events. The event provided creative activities for photographers interested in instant film media such as Polaroids, zines and other photographic printing methods.
In 2014, Instant Film Society co-founder Daniel Rodrigue, professor of journalism and photography at Dallas College-Brookhaven Campus, as well as Texas-based co-founder and photographer Justin Goode, launched the “Pola- Walks’, which are group walks that photographers go to learn from each other. Rodrigue had experience with conventions, and when photo walks started to gain popularity, Rodrigue and other members of the Instant Film Society hosted the first PolaCon in 2016.
Rodrigue said instant film is used to create physical memories, and Polaroids give a person an artifact of a moment.
“When you take a photo with a Polaroid, it pops out and within minutes you have a photo,” Rodrigue said. “No matter how old people are, even if they saw it when they were young, they boo and are intimidated. There is something magical about watching a pure photographic print come to life in front of you.
Rodrigue saw PolaCon as an opportunity for his students to meet other artists in a fun and relaxed environment. As a teacher and industry professional, he saw the importance of networking and connecting with other photographers.
“I wanted to organize an event where my students could come and spend time with these [artists] rub elbows, ”said Rodrigue.
As one of the country’s only instant film conventions, PolaCon attracts photographers and instant film enthusiasts from all over the world. Performers from Los Angeles, Kansas, Michigan and the UK traveled to Denton for the convention.
Brian Garbecht, an art student at Northeastern University in Chicago, attended all six PolaCon events. He said he continues to participate because he enjoys meeting other people involved in instant film and finds the nostalgic quality of Polaroids special.
“[Instant film] is important because we have these things that we can actually hold onto and look back on, ”Garbecht said. “With digital photography and digital media, it is so easily forgotten or lost. ”
Meeting like-minded people is what brought Brandy Barham to PolaCon. Barham, a Dallas-Fort Worth-based photographer for an advertising and media company, said keeping the film alive was important to her.
“[Instant film] is an incredibly substantial form of photography, ”said Barham. “There is no waiting, it’s instant [and] you can share it directly on site. It’s almost like creating a physical memory.
Barham said digital media is so fast that people don’t think about how a photo is created. In today’s technology, pPeople can pick up their phone and snap a photo without giving too much thought to its composition.
“[With instant film] there is a more intimate connection between you and the photo, ”said Barham.
The instant film community is expanding globally. Since the creation of the first camera in the 19th century, creators have adapted to this art form. For Rodrigue, PolaCon creates an opportunity for those interested in instant film to share their craft.
“There are a lot of cool creatives who come together because they all have the same hobby,” Rodrigue said. “There are people here who shoot a lot of instant movies [and] others are here because it’s a side hobby. [PolaCon] brings together all these different creations.
The selected image: Brandon Cole shows Paul Le his camera during Polacon at Harvest House on September 26, 2021. Photo by Élisabeth Bulot