I spent more than a year writing this book, and the most intense push was in January 2011. That’s when I spent two weeks in Boston, mostly at Harvard Business School’s Baker Library, where the Polaroid archives are kept. It was a tough trip: I was staying with my college roommate Mike and his wife, and although they could not have been nicer, two weeks is an awful lot to ask of anyone, and I was concerned about becoming the Guest Who Would Not Leave. (I went home weekends, and wrote rough drafts of three full chapters on the train.) On top of that, the Northeast was in the middle of a vicious, protracted cold snap, and HBS lies directly on the Charles River, whose wind was unbelievable.  If Mike had not generously ferried me to and from the train station each day, I would’ve had to trudge through six-foot snowdrifts each morning and night, on dark streets without sidewalks. (The trip was supposed to be three weeks instead of two, but a blizzard closed down the roads and rails and kept me in New York for the first few days.)

That was a year ago this week, and it was 16 degrees Fahrenheit this Monday morning. Which all brings us to today’s Instant Artifact: the Polaroid Cold-Clip.

The Cold-Clip, Model #193.

The chemical reaction by which instant pictures are processed depends heavily on temperature. When it’s 90 degrees out, Fuji’s FP-100C color film develops in one minute; at 50 degrees, it takes three times as long. When it’s really cold, it won’t work at all, which is where the Cold-Clip comes in. It is simply two sheets of aluminum—an excellent conductor of heat—that are hinged with a piece of tape. You keep it in your pocket, prewarming it. When you pull your photo from the camera, you tuck it inside the Cold-Clip, and, as the instructions say, “hold Cold-Clip between body and arm.” That’s right: Polaroid packfilm was, as far as I know, the first and only photographic product whose instructions involve shoving it into your armpit. Has to happen fast, too, so the process involves a frantic little dance.

Jokes about stinky-sweaty photos aside, this wasn’t (and isn’t) an ideal process. There’s always a little leakage of the reagant from a packfilm print, and after a day of outdoor shooting in cold weather, you can count on white streaks of dried chemicals all over your shirt. But it does work.

Two Cold-Clips pictured here, both from Automatic 100 cameras, each with (for some reason) different typography; the one on the left is a little nicer, if you ask me. There are other sizes, too, packaged with different cameras. Like so many things in life, the right-hand one in the photo fell apart with age and has been repaired with duct tape.

Instruction sheet below, front and back, if you really want to get into it. (Click to enlarge.)

Note that photographers still wore ties then, and did not worry about white streaks on their nicely pressed suit jackets.


2 Responses to Instant Artifact: The Cold-Clip, Model 193

  1. […] quite a bit more forgiving than even black and white film. Just keep your cold clip in your armpit (no really, it’s in the manual) on cold days until you make an exposure and you’ll be […]

  2. […] Since it was a cool day, and I was using colour film, I decided to use the Cold-Clip. The Cold-Clip makes it possible to get good colour pictures when the temperature is below 18 degrees Celsius. You […]

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