An Instant Film Fest Returns to DFW for a Weekend of Walks, Photography, and Local Music

A historic tour through Dallas, a trip to the State Fair of Texas, local music in Denton, and more at the eighth annual Polacon.

Courtesy of Polacon
Courtesy of Polacon

As society creeps ever closer to virtual reality, digital-first doctrines, and artificially intelligent technology, it’s nice to go back to analog. Enter the Instant Film Society’s Polacon, an instant film convention that returns to DFW—Dallas and Denton, namely—for its biggest iteration yet.

Instant Film Society co-founder, Daniel Rodrigue, organized this year’s Polacon (September 29–October 1) and crammed it with events for three, nay, four days if you include Day Zero. Attendees will partake in a series of “PolaWalks,” which is to say photo walks with the PolaCon crew, panels with Q&As, meet-ups for like-minded instant film fans, live music by local bands such as, oh the Polyphonic Spree, workshops, plus much more.

Rodrigue, who founded the film society in 2012 alongside photographer Justin Goode, launched a version of Polacon that same year. It all started with a group walk. Local instant film enthusiasts, Rodrigue and Goode included, snapped photos during the State Fair of Texas.

“People were kind of organically doing other stuff, like meeting at somebody's studio and doing photo shoots.”

“By 2013, people were coming in from out of town—like a group of about five or six from LA,” says Rodrigue. A year later, “people were kind of organically doing other stuff, like meeting at somebody's studio and doing photo shoots.” The popularity within this community continued to grow with each year, sparking the official launch of Polacon in Denton come 2016.

As a Denton resident and University of North Texas alum, Rodrigue has spent many years covering the city’s local art and music scene. He chose to launch Polacon in Denton–as opposed to artsy Dallas neighborhoods Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts, or the Design District–because he loves the walkability of the city. Walkability that, Rodrigue notes, allows for more optimal photography.

“When you're walking through an area, you see things you could never see when you're driving,” Rodrigue says. “You just notice things in a different way, and everything becomes a lot more photographable when you're on foot.”

Courtesy of PolaCon

“You just notice things in a different way, and everything becomes a lot more photographable when you're on foot.”

Polacon starts with a “day zero” PolaWalk that begins at Dallas’ Dealy Plaza on September 28. Snap the historical site then wrap up at a happy hour at the Texas Theatre. Friday begins at 10 in the morning for the famous State Fair of Texas PolaWalk, for which all cameras are welcome. Rodrigue, however, encourages participants to bring their Polaroid or Instax cameras. (Admission to the fair isn’t included.) Rodrigue prefers to stroll the State Fair during opening weekend since “the stuffed animals are freshly loaded and caramel apples look their best.”

Denton festivities will commence Friday night at Rubber Gloves Studios, as the Instant Film Society teams up with drag and burlesque collective WTFemme Productions for a special music and drag show called Double Exxposure. On the music stage will be Lorelei K, Caleb De Casper, Harley Deville, and Maple. Marie de Menthe, Azùcar, Jackie O’Nasty Graves, Siggy Sauer will be performing burlesque and drag numbers.

“Everyone loves instant film these days,” says Marie de Menthe, “and we are fortunate to have a beautiful audience for our shows. Sure, you can commemorate the evening with a picture and put it on the internet, and it lives forever, but why not in the tangible beauty and unique rawness of a Polaroid?”

Throughout the night, photographers are encouraged to snap pictures and submit their best shot from the first day of the convention.

“I’ve been drawn to this event because instant film and burlesque go hand in hand,” says Siggy Sauer. “It keeps the vintage aspect alive while also being one of the most personal mementos you can get from a dancer.”

On Saturday, guests reconvene at Rubber Gloves during the day for the Zines & Things swap meet. As its name suggests, attendees will have the opportunity to sell and swap their photo books, zines, cyanotypes, original Polaroid and Instax images, as well as enlarged prints.

Polacon wraps on Sunday, once again at Rubber Gloves, with special performances by the Polyphonic Spree, who marks their return to Denton in over a decade, along with the all-women neo-psychedelic rock band, Pearl Earl. Ahead of the show, Pearl Earl’s Ariel Hartley teases an evening that will certainly be worth photographing.

“I hope from our performance you can expect a portal to another dimension open up,” says Hartley. “Expect to get groovy, maybe feel a little evil, maybe feel a little happy.”

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Alex Gonzalez is a Dallas-based writer who covers music, pop culture, arts, LGBTQ+ stories, and more.