Instant: the story of Polaroid
Instant photography is so much a part of our lives that it is difficult to imagaine a time when it was a novelty. In the late 1940s the Polaroid Land Camera was commercially available and it printed a photograph in one minute. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, was the Steve Jobs of his day, according to author Christopher Bonanos. He dropped out of Harvard and developed polarized filters for automobiles, sunglasses and 3-D spectacles. His Cambridge-based technology firm invented the first instant camera by the end of World War II. Instant color film was invented by Polaroid in the early 1960s. Polaroid became famous for its clever marketing campaigns, stylish products, cutting edge technology, and exceptional stock performance.
Bonanos traces the development of Land's inventions from lab testing to the market. Land was interested in hiring two types of people for his company: scientists, who did basic research in physics and chemistry; and creative types, who focused on the design and marketing of his products. Land supervised all aspects of production and helped develop advertising campaigns in the early years of Polaroid. He even wrote advertising copy. Land hired famous photographers like Ansel Adams and Marie Cosindas to test and market Polaroid cameras. Eventually, the art world developed a fascination with Polaroid photography, and even today, artist Chuck Close still uses the camera: The New York Times. For the most part the medium also lent itself to candid, tongue-in-cheek portraits.
After Land's retirement in 1980, Polaroid stock declined substantially in value. Kodak's entry into the instant photography market cut into Polaroid's profit margin. Eventually, the development of digital camera technology forced the company to declare bankruptcy in 2001. The company has been re-organized as a digital photography brand, though some analog models are still in production as nostalgia items. It is difficult to find film for the old Polaroid cameras.