Responding to the Downfall of the Polaroid SX-70Written by Julianne Nicole Dionisio
The Polaroid SX-70 is known in the world to be the first instant SLR which traces back to 1972. Since the company stopped production in 1982, Gary Ho has been reviving the legacy of this antique device with his InstantFlex TL70.
We live in a world of ups and downs. Fans of the Polaroid SX-70 have tried to maintain the instant-print culture despite the fact that the company stopped production in 1982.
Located on the second floor of a rundown building in Causeway Bay is MiNT Camera, a shop selling vintage Polaroid cameras. As we walked up the grungy stairs, we notice the windowless store. Surrounded by cameras, Gary Ho greets us nervously as he starts to discuss his work. Throughout the interview, he utters his words, but at the same time, he was confident when discussing the way his business grew.
Inspired by the SX-70, Gary and his team of 100 spent two and a half years developing the world’s first twin lens instant film camera InstantFlex, TL70. After uncountable attempts and mistakes to turn ideas into a tangible product, the InstantFlex TL70 launched in March 2015. “We didn’t tell anybody that we were creating our products and camera. It was a technical process and some parts kept breaking down,” he said.
Before producing cameras, Gary started his career in 2010 when he would refurbishing second-hand SX-70’s from Yahoo Auctions. He would meet-up with his customers with their broken cameras at the MTR station; little did he know that his restoration service would eventually become international.
Raised in Hong Kong, this revelation may not be a surprise to many- his dad is a professional photographer. Instead of taking photographs, Gary enjoys tinkering with the mechanics. However, it’s not just about his interest and mechanical skills; he spotted a gap in the market for an entrepreneurial opportunity. Customers flooded in from the U.S.A and Europe to save their antique polaroid cameras.
In 2010, he would meet-up photographers with their broken SX-70s to refurbish and sell on Yahoo Auctions. Little did he know that his restoration service would spread internationally by word of mouth leading up to his brand called MiNT.
It’s been quite a journey for Gary as he supports the instant photography movement. “Starting an idea costs nothing. You have to put time, money and energy to motivate people to understand your vision. There nothing’s more satisfying than seeing it all come together,” he said.
Gary continues, “If you have invested your career, the risk will be bigger if you start something different so don’t postpone your ideas. Don’t sit on your idea – do something with it.”
2F, 26A Russell Street, Hong Kong
Edited by Rebecca Lau