When you're taking a trip to a different city and want to see the sights and experience the culture you may decide to join a group tour or perhaps take a bus tour in true tourist style. Sitting on the top deck of an open-top bus as you go steadily past all of the cities monuments and places of interest, trying to take as many photos on your phone as possible whilst simultaneously listening to the tour guide over the fuzzy microphone and trying your hardest to not to fall over the edge does sound tempting. However for those who are looking for a much more engaging and personal tour, with a full two hours to become a true flaneur and slowly wander the streets of Paris in style, Paris Polaroid Tours is the tour for you!
Paris Polaroid Tours take you away from the crowded tourist locations of the city and allow you to discover the real Paris through three variations of tours. From a guided walk around the 13th arrondissement's street art, a tour of Montmartre's arts scene and stunning Sacré-Coeur or you can choose a more classical tour if you wish. The tour includes an instant film camera and pack of film, with more film available during the tour if you get carried away.
We interviewed the team to find out more about their unique analogue venture.
"Travellers are now crying out for experiential, cultural walking tours."
SFUK: Can you tell us how Paris Polaroid Tours started? What gave you the idea and how did you find it starting up?
PPT:Working as the marketing manager for We Love Pola (a Paris based company which sells and hires Polaroid cameras) for several years, I wanted to project my background in Cultural Tourism into the limelight. I wished to combine my skills in tourism marketing and management, my love for Paris and my passion for instant photography together to create an original concept. After a quick analysis of the city’s sightseeing excursions, I saw a gap in the market for small group, experiential walking tours. I believe there is no better way to discover a city than by wandering through it. What I wanted was for tourists to really engage in tours and be proactive, not just be dragged by their guide from one monument to another. Paris Polaroid Tours was born. Akin to We Love Pola, this company is a family business. As the founder of Paris Polaroid Tours, I take care of the marketing and operations, as well as acting as a guide. There’s no greater pleasure than being on the forefront of the business, meeting clients from around the world and showing them a wonderful time in Paris. I guess the difficulty mainly lies in making people know that we exist, getting the word out!
SFUK: What is it about using instant film that you think attracts visitors to take the tour?
PPT: Passionate about photography, I believe instant cameras best capture moments and make the tour experience more memorable, magical and fun. Rather than heading to the ‘made in China’ souvenir shop, tourists are able to create their own souvenirs, to produce instant memories. For two and a bit hours, you can choose to join a small group (8 people maximum), to get away from technology (although I'm fine with people taking phone photographs), unleash your creativity, become a temporary artist - for tangible memories you can look back on and share with friends and families.
SFUK: How does walking in Paris with a Polaroid camera change the way people see the city?
PPT: When I looked at the tourism offer in Paris, I felt it was saturated with, on one hand, bus tours (which I find pollute a lot but also seem to 'drag' the tourist passively, potentially missing out on interesting things, such as, for example, hearing the french language on the street, seeing how french people go about their daily lives), and on the other hand, walking tours which throw too much information at tourists, and where they are busy taking photographs with their mobile phones.Travellers are now crying out for experiential, cultural walking tours, where they can engage and interact with his/her guide and surroundings.Photos are not just souvenirs or a medium of memories though.They are representations of how tourists experience a particular place - they narrate how tourists perceive culture. You can discover Paris differently. You can Make Paris Yours and take a piece of the city home with you.
SFUK: Do you think people engage with film differently than if they took a tour with a digital camera?
PPT:Nowadays the phone camera definitely wins it over the digital camera. On our tours, clients appreciate getting off their phones temporarily, as instant photography is privileged (they are of course free to take pictures with their phones if they wish!). This means they take in their surroundings a lot more, and think hard before taking each photo. It also means they have to take more time. All of a sudden the pace of life slows right down, and people can get to be 'in the moment'. Furthermore, our cameras are fun, very easy to use and are light to carry around. Unlike Polaroid 600 camera film, developing time takes 2 minutes maximum, which means clients can quickly see the shots they have taken during their walk. A Polaroid camera and 10 film are included in the tour, and more film is available for purchase on the day in case people get trigger-happy!
SFUK: Do you have any favourite memories from a particular past tour?
PPT: I took a street art tour with a mother and her two children aged 7 and 8. They had never seen a Polaroid camera. Once the first picture came out, I saw their eyes lit up in awe. That same kind of Christmas morning look once you realise you got the present you had asked Santa for. Throughout the tour, the kids valued every shot. The brother told the sister where and how to pose like a real movie director. Their imagination was flowing and for 2 hours, they had become artists. seeing the photo develop right before their eyes was true magic to them. From there I was sure the concept was perfect for families visiting Paris.
SFUK: What do you have planned for the future of Paris Polaroid Tours?
PPT:I would be looking at creating more tours thus more itineraries. Paris has a lot to offer off the beaten track. I personally have a penchant for Dark Tourism and I am working on a Père Lachaise Cemetery tour. In the cemetery you are surrounded by phantasmagoric statues and funerary art - this tour would offer black and white photography in a peaceful setting. I would introduce clients to the literary and poetic works of the nation’s best prose artists including Apollinaire, Balzac, Kardec, Proust, De Musset, Molière and many more!