Subtle blues: Impossible Color Shade

Writer and photography / Elizabeth Graves

Elizabeth Graves reviews the first edition of The Impossible Project’s experimental color film, Color Shade First Flush and finds the aged prints resemble color photographs of earlier eras.

SF Bay Bridge in Color Shade First Flush
The SF Bay Bridge on a bright sunny day (aged 10 weeks)

The long-awaited first edition of The Impossible Project’s experimental color film, Color Shade First Flush, is available!  This integral film is a unique emulsion suitable for Polaroid SX-70 cameras, as well as Polaroid 600 cameras whose light settings can be set to ‘make brighter.’

I took four fresh packages of this film for a test on a bright day.  I photographed them shortly after exposure, and recently took them from their storage box to see how they have fared over a ten week period.

The image of four prints was taken the day the day the exposures were made. Each of these exposures was made in full August sunshine under blue skies.  I used a Polaroid 600 camera, and moved the light-to-dark slider to the lightest setting, as suggested by the film’s manufacturer.

When fresh, the prints have medium-strong contrast, a strong blue cast, and an interesting, delicate  ‘crackle-glass’ pattern, which fades over time.  Depending on the brightness of the objects photographed, some off-white to beige subjects had a cream-colored tone; others reflected a cooler white.  Only primary reds registered on the emulsions, and only subtly; other shades of red or brown were quite subdued.  Images in strong shade or deep shadow could not be recorded.


Four fresh exposures of Color Shade First Flush
Color Shade First Flush, shortly after exposure

This film is quite sensitive to sunlight when first ejected from a camera, and so a homemade, black paper envelope was required to protect the film from light. (Pale areas in the lower left corners of these images reveal that light entered the shield in a spot where I reached in to grab the print.)  The prints take several minutes to develop, and should be shielded from light throughout development.  I kept the film in the dark sleeve I had attached to the camera for at least a minute, then slipped the prints into my back pants pocket until I reached shade, at which point I moved the prints into a box in my purse.  The contrast and depth of the images increased for more than 10 minutes after the images were taken.


Image of rocket sculpture made with Color Shade First Flush
Color Shade First Flush (aged 10 weeks)

I examined the prints routinely over the following weeks, but ultimately stored them in a box with some dessicant.

After ten weeks, the ‘crackle’ patterns visible within the print have faded. The tones are smoother, and overall contrast has  decreased.  The blue cast has softened, and yellow tones are becoming more visible.  In some ways, the aged prints resemble color photographs of earlier eras, or certain emulsion transfers I have seen.

This first release of experimental color film from the Impossible Project has interesting characteristics.  This emulsion does not yet exhibit full color balance, and requires very bright light (full sun, if possible) when using Polaroid 600-type cameras for clear results.  I may wait until subsequent editions with bolder reds before attempting any transfers or lifts with this material.

2 thoughts on “Subtle blues: Impossible Color Shade”

  1. I’ve testet the film and wrote a blog article about it (in german) … it a great film for experiments. I used an old Polaroid SX-70 Alpha-1 for my first pictures. All in all i like the old polaroid films more even if they are out of date.

  2. Thanks for your article on this new film from The Impossible Project, Elizabeth. It’s nice to get a heads-up on the films they continue to introduce in order to decide whether to purchase them or not. The lack of contrast in this film over time seems a bit limiting unless that is what one is looking for. There is very little color saturation as well, I see. I had similar results when I tried out their Fade To Black film. I personally like more snap in my images in general and wish they would some day come out with an equivalent of my all time favorite, Time Zero film, so I can get back to image manipulation. Thanks again for a great article!

Leave a Comment