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Instant film convention brings photo enthusiasts to Denton

Instant film convention brings photo enthusiasts to Denton

Instant film convention brings photo enthusiasts to Denton
October 01
10:20 2021

Photographers from California, Ohio, New York and other regions of the U.S. came to Denton this weekend for a unique convention all about instant film and photography. 

Hosted by the Instant Film Society, PolaCon is a three-day instant film convention with educational opportunities and activities for its participants. Artists attend PolaCon for more than 20 workshops, camera walks, demonstrations and other photography-related events. The event provided creative activities for photographers interested in instant film mediums such as Polaroids, zines and other photography print methods. 

In 2014, Instant Film Society co-founder Daniel Rodrigue, professor of journalism and photography at Dallas College-Brookhaven Campus, along with co-founder and Texas-based photographer Justin Goode, began “Pola-Walks,” which are group walks photographers go on to learn from each other. Rodrigue had experience with conventions, and when photo walks started gaining popularity, Rodrigue and other members of Instant Film Society held the first PolaCon in 2016. 

Rodrigue said instant film is used to make physical memories and Polaroids give a person an artifact of a moment.  

“When you take a photo with a Polaroid, it ejects and in a few minutes you get a photo,” Rodrigue said. “No matter how old people are, even if they saw it when they were young, they’re oohing and awing. There’s 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 with fellow artists in a fun and relaxed environment. As a professor and professional in the industry, he saw the importance of networking and connecting with fellow photographers. 

“I wanted to have an event where my students could come and hang out with these [artists] to rub elbows,” Rodrigue said. 

As one of the only instant film conventions in the country, PolaCon attracts photographers and instant film enthusiasts from across the world. Artists from Los Angeles, Kansas, Michigan and the U.K. have trekked to Denton for the convention. 

Brian Garbecht, a studio art student at Northeastern University from Chicago, has attended all six PolaCon events. He said he continues to participate because he loves meeting others who are involved in the instant film medium and he finds the nostalgic quality of Polaroids special. 

“[Instant film] is important because we have these things we can actually hold on to and look back on,” Garbecht said. “With digital photography and digital media, it gets forgotten or lost so easily.” 

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 film alive is important to her. 

“[Instant film] is an incredibly substantial form of photography,” Barham said. “There’s no waiting, it’s instant [and] you can share it right on the spot. It’s almost like creating a physical memory.” 

Barham said digital media is so fast that people do not think about how a photo is created. In today’s technology, people can pick up their phones and snap a photo without putting much thought into its composition.

“[With instant film] there’s a more intimate connection between you and the photo,” Barham said. 

The instant film community spans globally. Since the first camera was created in the 19th century, creators have taken to this art form. For Rodrigue, PolaCon creates an opportunity for those interested in instant film to share their craft. 

“There’s a lot of cool creatives who come together because they all have the same hobby,” Rodrigue said. “There are some people here who shoot instant film a lot [and] other people are here because it’s a side hobby. [PolaCon] brings all these different creatives together.” 

Featured Image: Brandon Cole shows Paul Le his camera during Polacon at Harvest House on Sept. 26, 2021. Photo by Elizabeth Bulot

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Hannah Johnson

Hannah Johnson

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