Polaroid photography – instant photography – Edwin Land – first polaroid in 1947
For most people, is not the quality of the photograph that counts, but what it represents and the moment that it captures. Taking a picture must be simple and the result must be guaranteed. The birth of the Polaroid proves it. Conceived during the evening of Christmas 1942, the Polaroid established, well before the digital age, the reign of the whole in one and the magic of immediacy. A luminous process which still inspires the photographers of today.
The American scientist Edwin Land imagined the Polaroid the evening of Christmas 1942, after his 4 year old daughter asked him why she could not see the photograph immediately. It will take five more years for Edwin Land to solve the technical problems. At this point, the handling of the device is a game of child. This camera will not only be used for family photos, birthdays, or festivals. Police officers, doctors, architects, and other professionals, also found utilities to using it.
The success of Dr Edwin Land’s invention is fulgurating. The Polaroid is everywhere. This kind of stereotype requires a little bit of care. Some hold the picture it in the palm of their hand, others heat it, or blow on it, or shake it to gently bring it to reality. It is the object of a true kitchen recipe: photographers write on the white edges the picture’s characteristics, some draw on the image, scratch it, or even burn it. Another artistic way was to use expired film. Putting it in the oven guarantees cracks; and if you put it in the freezer you get red traces.
The Polaroid changes practices because it is a photograph without witnesses, who is not forwarded any more to be developed in a laboratory. Some people now dare to shoot their naked girlfriends. Photographers love to record everything: a shoe, a toy, a sunbeam in a room… It is sometimes disastrous, but some started to like the missed photographs with the slobbery and veiled colors and started to collect them.
Today, digital photography killed the process of Dr. Land. Some artists and fashion photographers are still using it, but they are very rare. Unfortunately, the Polaroid is not for our time any more. It is exceeded by what made its success: by 1980, the art critic Hervé Guibert had understood, the fact that this instantaneous development process was only at its first step to the “race distressed with the immediacy”. Can we better describe our current digital era?
If you want to know more about Polaroid photography, here are some very good books:
where to buy a Polaroid?