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Poladroid: between photographic nostalgia and GUI issues

Last update: estimated reading time 2 minutes estimated reading time
Tags: GUIPaul LadroidPoladroidPolaroidsoftwareRoland Barthes

Poladroid simulates the development of analog polaroids up to the smallest GUI detail. Does this work?

Photography always reminds us of a time which is no more, but has been once. This is what Roland Barthes called the ça-a-été (it has been), considering it as one of the basic characteristics of photography. Now, not only the moments being captured by photography pass by, but also the means to do so. Like Barthes experienced it while watching an image of his mother and recalling his memories, these moments return later in order to become present again.

This is what happens with the software Poladroid, which is available free of charge for Windows and Mac. Omitting the first d tells you what it is about: Polaroid, the famous camera producing paper with chemicals which turn into the taken picture in a couple of minutes, like a miracle. This was called an instant picture, pointing to the biggest advantage of this method compared to other technologies needing more time. However, technology moved on, and pictures from digital cameras were even more instant. This forced Polaroid to give up producing the films. And with them, a photographic method vanishes more and more, inspiring the unique aesthetics of photographers like Ansel Adams.

Poladroid: an exact imitation of a vanishing technology

Photograph of a hut
The original image – a hut in the Swiss Alps

Digital media tend to imitate things of the real world as if there were no difference. This is what happened with Poladroid, a nice little software by developer Paul Ladroid which wants to give new digital life to polaroids. In every way possible. After starting, the software does not show a graphical user interface, but instead the imitation of a polaroid instant camera. You can drag and drop any image onto it, causing it to print a piece of digital paper. Then, a polaroid version of the image gradually appears. Like you would do with an analogue polaroid, you can then shake the digital image to speed up the process. This interesting idea is fun to watch for the first couple of times, but after that it becomes a bit annoying. You start to ask what's the point in this, as with Photoshop, you also do not see a pair of scissors crossing the image when you trim it…

GUI of Poladroid
The graphical user interface of Poladroid – you drag an image onto the camera and wait. And wait. And wait…

However, the results are stunning. Poladroid creates square pictures with the typical polaroid border, adjusting the colors according, like the image of the hut in the Swiss Alps shows. In the meantime, you can pick samples of the polaroid or stop the development entirely, resulting in nice psychedelic photographs reminding of cross processing.

two images, developed with Poladroid
Two different steps in the development of images with Poladroid – on the left side, the development has been stopped, on the right side, I waited to the end

The software is not really predictable. For example, I ended up with finger prints on the picture, presumably because I touched the wrong point while shaking. However, this could also create a style: a software for creatives, without question.

[via Bitsundso episode 129]