January 1, 2019

The story of Photodarium (and the chance to win a 2019 calendar too!)

Article submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by DJ Pangburn. | Cover photo: @clementgrosjean

For the team behind PHOTODARIUM, an instant photo tear-off calendar, it may be a part-time project, but the results are as tasteful as one would expect from a collective of professional graphic designers, editors, and publishers. Going back to 2012, each installment has featured 365 days of worth of instant analog images free of theme or concept. For the 2018 calendar, PHOTODARIUM featured Julia Beyer, a talented instant photographer, and singer in the electronic band Chandeen, on the cover. Read on to find out more about the project, and the chance to win yourself this year’s calendar, too! 

As Boris Kahl, Art Director & Project Manager at PHOTODARIUM, tells Polaroid Originals, it’s a passion-fueled side project for publishers Lars Harmsen (Slanted Publishers) and Raban Ruddigkeit, and Oliver Seltmann, who operates the publishing house seltmann+söhne in Berlin. When Kahl isn’t working as a graphic designer and partner at magma design studio in Karlsruhe, Germany, he curates, designs, and supervises the PHOTODARIUM calendar.

“I was interested in instant photography as a child when my grandfather gave me one of his Polaroid 600 cameras in the late ’80s,” says Kahl. “I also experimented with Polaroid film during my design studies. When Lars and Raban came up with the idea for the PHOTODARIUM, I was immediately on fire!”

Before launching PHOTODARIUM, this team had already developed TYPODARIUM, another tear-off calendar focused on curated typefaces. As Kahl explains, this idea led directly to photography tear-away calendar. Simultaneous to this work, Kahl, Harmsen, Ruddigkeit, and Seltmann watched with interest as the Impossible Project developed new instant films. Soon after, PHOTODARIUM was born.

Originally called POLADARIUM, and first issued in 2012, the curatorial team paired a new instant photo with its very own short story on the back. This first issue featured Andy Warhol on the title page.

“We were fortunate that Uwe Düttmann provided us with one of [Warhol’s] fantastic instant pictures,” Kahl explains. “In the first edition, the photos were quite mixed, also including a few fakes. We were not quite sure what the content should be and did not have a clear line yet. But we learned quickly from it and then put it onto the next level.”

Kahl says that the difficulty in these early years was that the idea was there, fully formed, but the content wasn’t very presentable. The team had to convince photographers to submit their instant photos to make the calendar. That meant gaining the photographers’ trust, which took quite a lot of persuasion.

Today, PHOTODARIUM has a significant community on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. And anyone interested in being featured in PHOTODARIUM can submit their photos on the website.

“I have been trying my best for eight years now to support the photographers and help with all questions and problems out there,” Kahl says. “The whole thing is based on honesty and trust. Many of the photographers have almost become friends and have been faithful companions for years.”

In the beginning, participants mostly hailed from Germany. Today, Kahl sees a community that is totally international, with participants from all countries of the world. This, he believes, makes PHOTODARIUM that much more interesting.

Another vital ingredient to the PHOTODARIUM community is giving photographers complete artistic license to decide which photos they want to submit. Other than the quality of the images, the team places no limitations on the instant photos. Since 2017, the team publishes two different versions of the tear-off calendar—the classic PHOTODARIUM, and then a spin-off of limited edition nudes called PHOTODARIUM Private. Kahl says the latter is limited to aesthetic nude photographs.  

“Over the years, more and more erotic pictures were submitted to our calendar,” says Kahl. “Therefore, we thought there should be kind of a separation, in terms of families with children having the calendars on their desks, etc.).”

With 2019 right around the corner, the PHOTODARIUM team is at work on the next few years’ editions. Kahl says that the team is thinking a lot about the Chinese market. By chance, they are considering a Chinese photographer named Qiqi Gu for the 2019 title page.

“I’m already working on the calendars for 2020 and I noticed very clearly that the number of Chinese participants has increased significantly,” says Kahl. “We are definitely looking forward to further development and are open to anything new.”

Ready to enter our competition? Here’s how…

Enter 1 portrait shot on Polaroid Originals film (or Impossible film). To enter you just need to create an original with the person (or people) that you’re most excited to share your 2019 with. This could be friends, family members – or even your precious pooch.

Then share it on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #PhotodariumOriginals for the chance to win a big bundle of Polaroid swag, including an official Photodarium calendar of course.

Competition doesn’t close until the end of January, so you’ve got plenty of time to get out there and create an original. 1 lucky winner will receive a OneStep 2 camera, film, a t-shirt, a tote bag and a calendar. 3 runners-up will receive Polaroid Originals film and a tote bag.

Good luck!

Competition T&Cs:
Please only choose 1 social media channel for your entry and set the visibility of the post to public so we can see the entry. Multiple entries are not encouraged. If you enter multiple images, we will consider your submission to be the first image you post under the hashtag. Entries allowed via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you don’t have social media, you send your entry via email to social@polaroidoriginals.com with #PhotodariumOriginals as the subject line. Competition closes at Midnight CET, 31st January, 2019.