Taking Vintage Polaroids Amid A Pandemic

Andrew Karpan


Over the course of last Sunday evening, small syncopated groups of people came and left the backyard of the House of Yes, the popular Bushwick club shuttered this weekend by the state liquor authority. 

They were taking pictures.

Running the show is Kyle Depew, who works these days out of an outfit he calls Brooklyn Film Camera. It’s the succession to an earlier venture of his selling Polaroid film, dreamily named the Impossible Project. He speaks in an ultrachill drawl that feels hazily new age, as if distilled from the water of some quaint urban paradise. (He’s from Philadelphia.)

Before the pandemic, Depew had set up a booth in the lobby of the new Whitney in the West Village, where he had hawked eight-by-ten-inch polaroid portraits to passing tourists.

“We really wanted to do that again, but with a social distance-bend,” he tells Bushwick Daily about his latest project, selling eight-by-ten-inch polaroids for $48 a pop in the back of the House of Yes.

For the first of these, he had enlisted Emily Soto, who he identifies as a “famous photographer,” and who was once selected as a judge for a season of a web series called “Top Photographer with Nigel Barker,” which is run by the Manhattan camera retailer Adorama. Somewhat more recently, she shot Zoë Kravitz for a Dotdash beauty blog called BYRDIE. 

Soto, who also has 286,000 followers on Instagram, tells Bushwick Daily that she felt that taking eight-by-ten-inch polaroids was a great way to celebrate the current late-pandemic mood. As summer crests into autumn, the streets were filling timidly with plastic chairs and, everywhere you looked, a crowd had gathered suddenly, in line somewhere, spattered in little groups, with six feet in between. 

“New York is starting to kind of come back to life,” she says. 

On Sunday, couples had come in wedding outfits from their canceled nuptials, others had come to mark a birthday months past with a vintage polaroid print. In the shadow of a shuttered nightclub, they could remind themselves that this great, tragic event, which had ground so much of their lives to a halt, could still permit small things like this. “It was about capturing them in their being, I try to keep people authentic and natural,” Sota says.  

A local photographer named Ryan Razon also came around; he’s doing the photography at the booth this coming Sunday.   

“It’s everyone just hanging around, vibing to the music,” he tells Bushwick Daily. He hopes the running the booth next week will help establish himself as a large-format photographer. He has a more modest following on Instagram: 47,800 people. 

But Razon also finds shooting on polaroid film especially moving.

“I just want people to know that this type of old technology is thriving in some shape or form and I hope it never dies,” says Razon.

Brooklyn Film Camera will be doing portraits behind the House Of Yes again on Sunday, September 6th and then on September 13th. Sessions can and should be booked in advance here.

Photos courtesy of Kyle Depew.

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