Bret Watkins/Polaroid


How Polaroid Accidentally Created a New Kind of Blue Film

The brand's latest limited-edition film Reclaimed Blue was a happy accident.

Polaroid didn’t set out to make a new kind of film. But sometimes there’s more art to science, and even more often in life, beautiful things happen accidentally and unexpectedly. Take the invention of penicillin, popsicles, or The Powerpuff Girls.

One day, in the only Polaroid laboratory in the world, which is located in Enschede, The Netherlands — a quality technician named Brian Slaghuis, a Sagittarius whose been with the company for five years, accidentally concocted a new kind of film after an unexpected chemical reaction. Reclaimed Blue is Polaroid’s newest film, which brings together an entirely new chemical reaction to create psychedelic, nostalgic blue film with a depth that rivals Picasso’s own Blue period.

To briefly understand how this all works, we have to revisit a little subject called chemistry.

Normally, Polaroid doesn’t mix chemicals used in their black and white film with those used in their color film because they are different film types with very little chemical similarities — but Slaghuis tried it anyway, using a developer chemical from the B&W paste called TBHQ and threw it into color paste — which had never been done before. The result was shocking: the chemistry turned the film into rich, striking shades of blue without any extra developer or dye; it’s entirely colorized by a chemical reaction. Nobody knows why, not even Slaghuis.

Brian SlaghuisBrian Slaghius/Polaroid
Brian Slaghuis/PolaroidBrian Slaghuis/Polaroid
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"The chemistry behind Polaroid is so complex, it may take 10 to 15 years of research to fully understand it,” says Slaghuis. “Even with my science and chemistry background, I understand about 20-30% of it.”

It’s not the first blue film Polaroid has made: You’ve probably seen Monochrome and Duochrome film (perhaps on Tumblr,) which have various shades of blue in the same tone — but reclaimed blue looks more like multiple different tones of blue in the same photograph. When you look at the Reclaimed Blue photos, you can see a wider array of blue: cyan, turquoise, lagoon, with high contrast shadows, giving it all a distinctly psychedelic look that’s made that much better knowing it was all on accident.

Reclaimed Blue 600 film is now available for purchase at for $16.99.