Shake it like a Polaroid picture

Where it all began…

The Land Camera was designed by Edwin H. Land in 1942. This revolutionary camera was able to take a photo and print a film print in less than a minute! But it’s Land’s daughter whom we should thank for this incredible invention. She asked her father why she couldn’t see the pictures now? Why did she have to wait for them to be developed? Land took these complaints as motivation for his latest invention, the Polaroid, which made more than $5 million in sales in its first year!

Image Credit: American Chemical Society

Polaroid cameras then, were like what Apple is today. As the “father of instant photography” these monochrome cameras were becoming more and more popular. Below is a picture of the orignial Land Camera, which produced monochrome films. It wasn’t until 1963 that ‘Polacolor’ film was introduced. Colour films were even more complex than monochrome ones; these films consist of a set of three double emulsion layers and a colour developer layer, which chemically react to hold the layers together so that it can be seen by the naked eye in only a matter of seconds.

Image Credit: Innovation Village

“The passion at Polaroid in those days… there was just nothing like it.”

Samuel Liggero, Former Product Developer at Polaroid.

In the 2000s, the emerging popularity of the digital camera disrupted the viability of the Polaroid, and in 2007, Land’s company abandoned the production of instant cameras altogether.

To find out more about the rise and fall of the Polaroid instant film technology, watch the documentaryTime Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film”.

The rebirth of the Polaroid camera

After the company closed its last factory in August 2008, eleven employees at the Enschedeplant in the Netherlands decided to takeover the machines to restart production. 2010 was the year of the grand re-opening of production under the new name “The Impossible Project”. In 2010, three million films were produced and ten million the following year. This may seem minimal compared to the 120 million films sold per year when the cameras first came into production, but it was enough support for the Impossible Project to continue.

The rise of the Impossible brand

Nowadays, you can only purchase a vintage Polaroid camera on the Internet, and only from certain websites. However, The Impossible Project have continued to improve production, for example, with the version 2.0 released in 2015, which has better light resistance and improved development time.

In 2017, The Impossible Project obtained the right to use the Polaroid brand and they joined forces to create Polaroid Originals, the brand you know and love today!

Video Credit: Meero

The Polaroid camera is a defining cultural artifact of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Artists such as Andy Warhol and David Hockney have used Polaroids as part of their artwork. Hockney created a photographic show of his Polaroid work at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. 

David Hockney artwork with Polaroids

Image Credit: The Orange County Register

Polaroids have been incorporated in other areas of the arts world. For example, David Hockney created this cover for the Talking Heads album "More Songs About Buildings and Food", which depicts the four band members in a collage of Polaroid photos.

Talking Heads polaroid album cover

Image Credit: The Orange County Register

"Shake it like a Polaroid picture" is one of the most memorable lines from the 2003 hit song "Hey Ya!" by the hip-hop duo OutKast. This may be where the urban legend comes from, that if you shake the picture it develops more quickly...

Video Credit: Youtube

In recent years, Polaroid blogging has become an epidemic, espeically for capturing holiday snaps. Whether you're on a city-break or on a beach, these blurry films are very endearing, so much so that they have eclipsed even the highest quality digital photos in certain markets.

Image Credit: Austrian Adaptation

Land himself explained that “the purpose of inventing instant photography was essentially aesthetic”, this explains the rejection of high quality photographs for older, grainier, blurry photos. The Polaroid craze proves that there's something quite remarkable about taking a photo and knowing that it can never be recreated in the same way. The blurry tinge unique to Polaroids is aesthetically pleasing, there's nothing like it.

19 Sep 2018 by Phoebe Cook

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