The era of large-format instant film photography is coming to an end as the only maker of Polaroid 20x24 film—and owner/operator of the huge cameras that use it—plans to cease production at the end of 2017. The announcement by the 20 x 24 Studio is a blow for artists and photographers such as Chuck Close, William Wegman, and David Levinthal, who have created some of their most famous work in Polaroid 20x24 and continue to use the medium. And for those photographers who have always longed to make unique prints with this painstaking and expensive process, time is running out.
For instant-film photographers, the large-format Polaroid 20x24 has always been a sort of Stradivarius of the medium—a rare and gorgeous instrument available only to great artists or very well-heeled aficionados. The photos themselves, one-of-a-kind originals measuring 20x24 inches, have rich colors, tremendous detail, and, usually, exquisitely shallow focus. In a digital age, they're testaments to the power of the handmade photograph as art object.
The news that 20 x 24's owner, John Reuter, broke wide in the New York Times early this morning. I've wanted to use this camera ever since I first saw it in a workshop with Reuter more than 15 years ago. Polaroid made only a handful of them in the world, and chances are that one will wind up in a museum collection. But 20 x24 Studio will still rent one (at $1,750 per day) and sell you the film (at a cost of $125 per exposure)—if you book before time and film run out.