There are few things in life that are timeless — writing thank you notes, weathered paperback books and Polaroids. Even though the phenomenon began in 1948, the Polaroid and other similar instant cameras still hold prominence today, using self-developing film to produce the print of a picture taken shortly beforehand. The incredible ability to instantly capture a moment and make it tangible opens the door to thousands of possibilities — immortalizing memories, moments, emotions, celebrations and even the most mundane of occasions.
People like myself are still using Polaroid cameras or similar brands to take instant pictures on film. Even though we have every ability to take pictures on our own cell phones, we find more sentimental value in the physicality and time taken into creating a Polaroid photo. This comes along with all of the memories and emotions that went into the process of aligning the camera to capture that specific visual that you have deemed worthwhile of spending a precious piece of film on.
I think that Polaroid photos possess the most value out of any kind of photography. They capture memories, emotions and candid moments. It enables the most amateur photographers, such as myself, to take high quality photos. Moreover, with a normal camera you can quickly snap several pictures and “choose” the best one before just deleting the others. A Polaroid forces you to slow down and purposefully take a picture and, consequently, savor the moment you’re capturing on film.
I received an Instax camera for my birthday right before I started my first year. It’s a different and newer brand than the original Polaroid camera, but provides the same results. From that point on, my plan was to document my college experience in all of its highs and lows.
Little by little, I’m accumulating a narrative of my own unique college experience through personal photos of what I consider the most important and intimate moments. So far, I have collected a wide variety of photos, but each time the camera shutter clicks is also an experience in itself.
The physical photos themselves offer me a rare kind of nostalgia. First, there’s the burst of excitement I feel when I run my fingers over the smooth piece of film as it comes straight out of the camera. The anticipation of waiting for the picture to develop is one of the best parts — I usually try to speed up this process by waving it around in the air, although I’m not sure if this actually works. Once it fully develops, the grainy and warm tones seem to reflect even warmer memories that were captured in those special instances. Afterwards, I use a pink-colored Sharpie to mark the date the photo was taken.
Now, every time I look back at a photo and notice the date, I’m swept by a wave of nostalgia. I feel young enough to make more memories like the ones I already have and, simultaneously, old since so much time has passed me by all at once.
And the best part is that these moments have been immortalized. In my collection I can revisit the day my friends picnicked outside of my dorm in early September, or when I hung out with an old friend in his dorm decorated with thousands of colorful lights. There’s a vivid photo of my roommate with our belongings strewn haphazardly on the ground as we were packing up to go into quarantine after being contact traced — she gave the camera a sad thumbs down as I took the photo before we departed.
There are a few other pictures of myself on the Rotunda steps, and even one of my friends dressed as ghosts on Halloween night on the same steps. For Christmas, I have a photo of my boyfriend holding our little ramshackle gingerbread house that we managed to put together, despite making a mess of the icing. Most recently, a friend took a picture of me and my roommate on the snowy Rotunda.
These photos represent a variety of experiences that I want to make sure I have documentation of. I know I’ll remember the most important moments such as my first move-in, but I also want to make sure I reflect on the moments that truly make up the college experience.
This is only the beginning of what I’m sure will be a very long series of Polaroid photos — a collection of moments that I hope to put together one day in a scrapbook so I can always reminisce on my college years. Even though these pictures may represent some mundane and simple moments, I know they will evolve into sweet memories of my time here at the University.
Cecy Juárez is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.