The Polaroid Era

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"Polaroid SX-70 Land Model 2 with film cartridge protruding from the front." Burnett, Colin M.L.. Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0 license. Via Wikipedia.

The inventor and founder of the Polaroid Corporation, Edwin H. Land, developed the first instant camera as a hobby during World War II. After the war, the growth of the American economy made it possible for new industries to flourish. One of these industries was instant photography.

Polaroid photography focused on minimizing the time between taking the photograph and viewing the image. However, the first Polaroid camera, which debuted in 1948, still relied on the photographer to time the development of the film, pull out the print to burst a pod of developing chemicals, and peel away the top film. These first film prints were in sepia-tone, followed by black-and-white prints in 1950. The Polaroid company actually published a magazine advertisement for their black-and-white film before it was available, and their employees worked quickly to meet public demand.

As instant camera technology progressed, it became possible for the prints to develop within a minute before the eyes of the user (oftentimes, people would wave Polaroids in the air to encourage faster image development). After the popular black-and-white prints came the peel-apart color prints in 1963, and non-peel-apart color prints followed in 1972. By 1977, the height of its popularity, Polaroid held two-thirds of the instant camera market, despite competition from Kodak.

Around 1979, the sales of instant cameras began to decrease, as video cameras and 35-millimeter cameras became smaller and cheaper. Ultimately, Polaroid’s innovations in instant photography created a public desire which would lead to their own demise at the hands of an even more instant mediumdigital photography.