I can’t stop buying vintage Polaroid cameras and accessories. I just … keep finding them at the thrift store, in near-mint condition. They seem to whisper, “Buy me and take me to Bryan McCormick and Geoffrey Ellis at Las Vegas Camera Club,” and I am powerless to resist them. I buy ’em, bag ’em and take them directly to LVCC, where McCormick examines their innards (“The rollers are clean; you really lucked out”), tests-fires them and then sells me lots and lots of Impossible Project film to load them up with.
I really like finding those cameras, almost as much as the proprietors of LVCC seem to enjoy my finding them. This boutique, classroom, repair shop and occasional local presenter of documentary films is the perfect companion establishment to Linq’s Polaroid Fotobar and Museum: While the latter is largely a retail operation where you can buy Polaroid-themed merchandise and some really nice frames for your instant photos, LVCC is the place you go to learn how to take those photos in the first place. Here, you’ll get a full education in instant photography, cheerfully delivered. You’ll learn how instant photography came to be, how the Polaroid brand survived obsolescence, how the Impossible Project came to be the only company making Polaroid-compatible film … and best of all, you can learn which camera is best for what kind of photography, and how to do emulsion lifts, double exposures and all that cool stuff.
Put another way, Las Vegas Club doesn’t strictly deal in instant film (though they have lots of it, for both Polaroids and Fujis) or instant cameras (though they have some of those for sale, too). What they have on offer is enthusiasm, in unlimited quantities. You can walk in there what what you previously considered an inert piece of junk and walk out feeling like a real street photographer, loaded up and ready to shoot a few instant masterpieces. And LVCC isn’t just for nostalgic Generation X types or millennials who only want this stuff because Lady Gaga has vouched for it; McCormick tells me that one of his regular customers is 14 years old. And she takes better photos than any of us.
My advice to you: Inquire after an annual membership at LVCC and begin reaping the benefits, which include free classes, discounts on hardware and film (10% and 5%, respectively), and access to both hardware rentals and one of the best lending libraries of books on street photography this town has ever seen. Or, at the very least, take your dad’s old Polaroid down there and find out how you can use it to make some fairly amazing photographic art. I did, and as soon as I can get back down to the thrift store, I’ll probably do it again.
1017 South 1st St. #185 (inside Art Square), LasVegaCameraClub.com
PHOTOS BY GEOFF CARTER