The physical magic of Polaroids

This is something I've only just recently started to think about. This topic is nothing new -- others have philosophized about this, sometimes at great length. But it really struck me last night as I was thinking about it.

One of the many unique things I love about Polaroid photography is that your photographs literally capture a piece of physical light from the subjects you're photographing. The physical light bouncing off of that person, or thing, is literally captured and imprinted on the photograph that comes out of the camera.

In other words, you're literally holding a physical piece of the actual light coming from that person or thing. It's right there in your hands, and it's crazy to think about. 

This is not something you get from any other form of photography.

It certainly isn't something you get from cellphone or any kind of digital photography. With that, you're just getting 1s and 0s, or digital approximations of the light. 

With other forms of analog photography, like 35mm or 120mm, you don't really have this magic happening, either. Technically, yes, you have captured the physical light of the person or thing on the negative. But we don't often go around handing out negatives, right? Photographers make prints from the negatives. And by that point, you're not working with the original light anymore. You're projecting from the negative onto another source, so it's a reproduction of the light -- not the actual light itself.

What all of this means is that Polaroids are unique in a very special way. They literally capture and imprint a real piece of what you're photographing. When you take a Polaroid of someone, the Polaroid print is the real light that was coming off that person, now on your print.

When you think about it this way, it can have some real profound effects on how you photograph, and how you approach making photographs with this medium.