Wednesday History Lesson: Peel Apart Film

When I want to get people talking about the radness that is film photography, I bring out the tank: my Polaroid 600se. It’s a massive polaroid camera known for its portraits and it happens to live on a diet of peel apart film (and if you rig it, you can shoot medium format film on it too). 

The first thing people see is the camera, then you taking the picture, then you physically pulling the film out of the camera like you’re playing tug of war with a dog and then they see the results as you peel off the chemical paper and their minds explode. It’s my favorite party trick. 

Fuji announced the discontinuation of their film Fuji FP-100C in January of 2016, killing the last of peel apart film. After hearing the death sentence, Polaroid Land users were scrambling to buy it up before the film vanished. Good news, it’s not gone (yet) but prices have jumped to $25/pack (that’s like $3 per photo) and that’s stupid expensive. So what can you do if you wanna shoot on this film? 

Expired film packs by Polaroid (the photos with the bluish tones above & below) are still floating around the web but those tend to be a bit tricky. They do not do well in heat and unless you can guarantee it’s been sitting in the AC or a fridge, your results will vary greatly. Be careful and be smart when using expired film. Know what you’re getting yourself into so you’re not super bummed when you have chemical burn on your hand and no photo (this has happened to me multiple times). 

I try to look for sellers who are selling it from their personal collection or a relative’s collection because they tend to know where the film has been. I highly recommend you find trust worthy film nerds on the web or a local shop (if you can) for all your photography needs cause they are there and they are here to help. 

It might not seem like there is much hope for this film with inventories dwindling but there is shining light at the end of the tunnel. 

What has been my saving grace through learning film photography is that there is a crazy passionate support system of photographers who are motivated by film and film alone. It’s calming to know there is a community of people who refuse to let film die. It is because of their efforts that film is getting revitalized in the first place. Apart of this group of people is one of Impossible Project’s founders, Doc. Him and the team single handily saved polaroid film before and they are trying to do it again with peel-apart by working with Bob Crowley from New55 FILM. For now, we wait. 

Although the options are limited, they are there and available. The results are worth exploring this medium and I highly recommend hunting thrift stores for a land camera. Film is expensive but it’s fun and worth it, I promise. You’ll get some great stories out of your failures and triumphs. Film is the way.. 

Words and photographs by Sammy Keller.

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