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Farewell to a photography giant: Studio to stop producing huge Polaroid 20×24 film

end of 20x24 polaroid instant photography chuck close vanity fair
Vanity Fair
Among the multitude of photography formats out there, Polaroid 20×24 is perhaps the most unique. Known for the humongous cameras required to shoot it, such a large instant print is inherently different from any other medium. And now, the only studio in the world that produces the film and operates the cameras has announced it’s ceasing production of the massive film.

Polaroid 20×24 film is special for two key reasons. First, it’s big — very big. Sure, any photograph can be printed on a large piece of paper, but a Polaroid 20×24 is the film and paper in one, which is why the cameras have to be so huge. What about that medium-format mirrorless camera that Hasselblad announced earlier this week? Doesn’t even come close. And when compared to the popular 35mm format (or full frame), 20×24 is a staggering 360 times larger. This yields exquisite amounts of detail with an often very narrow depth of field.

Secondly, it’s instant film, so beautiful, gallery-size prints come to life shortly after a photograph has been taken. This also means each exposure is a one-of-a-kind work of art; there’s no negative (let alone digital file) to use for printing duplicates. As the film is quite expensive, nailing exposure and focus on the first shot is paramount. For instant-film aficionados, 20×24 is the Mount Everest of the medium.

As reported in Popular Photography, the New York-based 20×24 Studio is finally calling it quits after nearly a decade of making the unique film. The studio estimates it can maintain production and stock through the end of 2017. In a blog post on the studio’s website, owner John Reuter said, “Our hope now is that we can work on some great projects with many of our legacy clients, as well as new artists who have yet to experience the ultimate in instant analog image making.”

From Brad Bitt to Barak Obama, Polaroid 20×24 has been used to create portraits of some of the world’s most recognizable people. The process of shooting the format and sample images can be seen in this 2013 video from Vanity Fair featuring photographer Chuck Close:

Up Close And Personal

20×24 Studio maintains cameras in New York, Miami, San Francisco, and Dusseldorf, Germany. Photographers interested in working with the format should start saving their pennies. Cameras cost $1,750 per day to rent and film is $125 per sheet.

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