To The Moon and Back With Impossible And The Lumen Collective

Written by: Sophie Taylor

“Don’t undertake a project unless it’s manifestly important and nearly impossible.” – Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid and inventor of the world’s first instant camera.

Last week it was another so called Supermoon (meaning it’s approximately 16% closer to Earth). “I defy you to notice” says our astronomer for the evening, asking us to point up to the moon and compare it to our pinky fingernail. “It’s still tiny”, he continues as we all stand in a semi circle simultaneously emulating E.T. and The Fairport Convention.

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We have gathered on the roof of Netil360 in Hackney to perv on the full moon and take creepy close up photos of him through telescopes. It’s a Stargazing and Lunar Photography event with Hackney Arts, Impossible and the Lumen Collective, where we also meet an astronomer named Paul.

When Polaroid announced the end of instant film in 2008, Impossible stepped in to buy the last remaining factory, days before it closed down. The machines had been dismantled, there were no formulas to follow and the supply chain had already been destroyed. “If we wanted to keep instant photography alive, we had to reinvent instant film from scratch.”

Eight years later, with the help of some incredible chemists, engineers and photographers, Impossible are the only people in the world who make original format instant film. They make film in both colour and black and white, for Polaroid 600-type, SX-70 and Image/Spectra cameras, as well as large format 8×10 film. 

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They also refurbish classic Polaroid cameras so they’re as good as new, and have introduced their own new range of Impossible cameras.

“We believe in making real photos. Photos with a life after the shutter clicks. Photos that develop in the palm of your hand, ready to pin to the wall or give to a friend. That’s why we’ve spent eight years working on our film formula. It’s why we’re reinventing analog instant photography in a digital world.”

Astronomer Paul Hill was an absolute treat. I am currently Googling him to find some more events that he’s got up his sleeve. I shall report back. He took us on a skywards guided tour, talking lunar science and helping us view the stars, Venus and the Moon through a collection of telescopes. We learned that the Moon is actually made from bits of the Earth from when it had rings like Saturn. Or something a bit more complicated than that but basically that’s how I remember it. Also, did you know, gold doesn’t come from the Earth but is actually made from stars that have decided to die dramatically and explode, supernova style, before accidentally landing on this little planet of ours? Now you do.

With the help from the super-talented Lumen collective, East London’s art collective dedicated to astronomy and light, we were guided in taking a unique photograph of the Moon to take home and stroke, nightly. 

Have a look at our attempts to print the moon. Mine’s the blurry white blob on the left.

Photos of photos by Mike Barry

Further lunar reading: brush up on this year’s Black Moon and the history of your favourite tipple, moonshine.

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