Hathaway gallery in Atlanta hosts massive Polaroid making final tour

Making what could very well be its last trip to Georgia, the 20-inch-by-24-inch Polaroid camera will be at the Hathaway Contemporary Gallery this Thursday through Saturday.

Weighing over 200 pounds and constructed from wood in the late 1970s, the camera is expected to use the remainder of its film by December 2017, thrusting the camera into retirement.

However, Atlantans can get a 30-minute session, which includes two portraits with the camera, while the camera is at Hathaway.

Laura Hathaway, owner and director of the gallery, said last week that roughly 50 to 60 percent of the spots have been sold already.

Patrons can choose between having local Atlanta artist and activist Sheila Pree Bright as their photographer for $1,950, or they can have the executive director of 20x24 Studio, John Reuter, and his team for $950.

Hathaway said that Bright’s price is more expensive since that’s the going price for one of her works currently.

“You’re paying for having her as an artist as your photographer,” Hathaway said.

Reuter is actually the reason 20x24 photo shoots like this are still possible. In 2008, Polaroid was in bankruptcy, and it decided to stop producing instant film. Reuter, a 30-year employee of Polaroid, came in and, with the help of an investor, purchased one of the five original cameras as well as hundreds of cases of remaining film.

However, in June 2016, Reuter announced via a New York Times article that December 2017 is approximately when the remaining film will run out, and with it, the camera's days of shooting portraits.

He said after the article was published, people began to flock to get their photos taken before it was too late.

“People kind of took it for granted and felt like we’d always be there, and they could get one whenever they wanted, but we said we can only make it look great for a certain period of time,” Reuter said.

On Thursday, during the Hathaway event, Reuter will give an artist talk where he will detail the history and significance of the 20x24 Studio. He’ll also premiere clips from a documentary he’s working on about the 20x24 project, and Atlanta attendees will be the first in the world to see the footage.

Hathaway also said that students from Georgia State University will attend as well as the university's president, Mark Becker.

“We wanted to incorporate the community and have the students involved,” Hathaway said. “So Georgia State students will be there during the shoot, and then also the president of the university will get his photograph taken with a few other people.”

Reuter said he intends that once the film runs out, he’ll make sure the camera will be donated somewhere where it will be revered and taken good care of. He just wants to camera to be appreciated for generations to come.

“There’s nothing quite like seeing that instant print when it peels and you see yourself or your family or whatever,” Reuter said, describing his infatuation with the camera. “It’s almost like an oil painting that comes to life right in front of you.”​

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EVENT PREVIEW

20x24 Polaroid Camera

Sessions take place 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Friday (Oct. 27-28); 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 29). Artist talk is at 6 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 27). Admission to the gallery is free; sessions cost $950 or $1,950. Hathaway Contemporary Gallery, 887 Howell Mill Road N.W., Suite 4, Atlanta. 470-428-2061, www.hathawaygallery.com.