PolaCon, an Instant Film Photography Convention
Live in NYC — May 19-21, 2023!3 min read by
PolaCon is a convention for instant film shooters that’s about to land in New York City on May 19, 2023. It will last three days, featuring photo walks, meet-ups, zine & things swaps, panel discussions, workshops, and The State of the Emulsion address.
PolaCon NYC is staged in partnership with Brooklyn Film Camera and sponsored by Polaroid. The event is run by the Instant Film Society of Denton, Texas — a non-profit organization founded in 2012 to “increase awareness, accessibility, and understanding of instant film photography.”
The cost of a ticket for the entire weekend of programming is just $35. We don’t want anyone to be unable to attend due to lack of funds, however. If you’d like a discounted or free ticket simply email [email protected], let us know how much you’re able to pay for a ticket, and we will get you set up.
— PolaCon NYC.
☞ As I write this, Daniel Rodrigue, Instant Film Society’s founder, updates me via text: Polaroid will host a two-hour workshop on Saturday at PolaCon NYC.
A brief history of PolaCon and the Instant Film Society.
I love instant film, especially the one made by (the new) Polaroid. But somehow, I found myself under a rock, having received Daniel’s email about an upcoming event he’ll be hosting in NYC. This was the first time I heard of PolaCon; as you would expect, I instantly wanted to know more.
Daniel kindly gave me half an hour of his time over the phone, whose insights make up the majority of this article’s content:
He founded the Instant Film Society back in 2012 with Justin Goode in Denton, Texas — a town with a “thriving instant film community” (video) — an hour’s drive from Dallas.
Denton is often described as a college town and a place to soak in the thriving music scene. Live performances and beers with friends were often the consequence of the IFS’ instant photo walks to the state fair, where colourful props are practically begging to be photographed.
The participation grew over the years, with members attending from across the United States, Canada, and Europe. And in 2015, IFS’ photo walks got an upgrade with a snazzy new name: PolaCon. In 2016, the event got expanded into a multi-day affair.
In Denton, PolaCon runs in collaboration with Denton Camera Exchange. And in 2020, they partnered with Glass Key Photo of San Francisco, taking the conference on the road for the first time.
Alas, the pandemic happened almost immediately after the first Bay Area PolaCon took off. On the call, Daniel described the sight of the “PolaCon: Coming Next Weekend” sign hanging around the venue for months as no one was tending the building in an empty city.
The 2021 PolaCon went virtual.
PolaCon returned to San Francisco in 2022, where Kyle Depew, founder and director of Brooklyn Film Camera and a former member of the Impossible Project (Polaroid), approached Daniel about trying a new city: New York.
This brings us to today’s announcement of an upcoming event in “The Big Apple.”
The future of PolaCon.
New York is a big one. I love walking around the city with a camera and would have loved to attend the event. But that is certainly not the last PolaCon, with the next one planned for September in Denton again.
Daniel is also actively thinking of the next big city tour for PolaCon, with Seattle likely hosting the next one. Vancouver and Chicago are the potential nexts.
I am looking forward to being able to visit PolaCon (maybe next year?) and updating this article with the photos and stories from the event. As for now, I’ll be creeping the #PolaConNYC tag and taking a deeper dive into the world of Polaroid and instant film as I explore the art and science of it all on this blog.