Instant: The rise & fall of Polaroid’s creative revolution.


“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

~ Arthur C. Clarke


Pictures in an instant! 

It is widely known that Polaroid was the apple of young Steve Jobs’ eye and that the Polaroid kingdom served as an inspiration for the creation of his Appleology.

Edwin H. Land, father of Polaroid, and one of the most remarkable inventors of the twentieth century, was Jobs’ personal hero—maybe because he was among the first visionaries to connect creativity with technology, and make it accessible on a massive scale.


{Edwin Land}


Christopher Bonanos, senior editor of New York Magazine and author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid, points out the Polaroid – Apple ‘romance’.

“The most obvious parallel is to Apple Computer, except that Apple’s story, so far, has a much happier ending. Both companies specialized in relentless, obsessive refinement of their technologies. Both were established close to great research universities to attract talent (Polaroid was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it drew from Harvard and MIT; Apple has Stanford and Berkeley nearby).


Both fetishized superior, elegant, covetable product design. And both companies exploded in size and wealth under an in-house visionary-godhead-inventor-genius. At Apple, that man was Steve Jobs. At Polaroid, the genius domus was Edwin Herbert Land.”

In this first cautionary tale of intrepid and creative entreprenurship, Bonanos illustrates—with words and pictures—Polaroid’s production, marketing and branding efforts since its inception in 1937, to the release of the first instant camera in 1948, until its final collapse in late 2000s.


Book trailer for Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos from Princeton Architectural Press.

In his latest blog post, Six Artists in Sixty Seconds, Bonanos includes a slideshow of serious Polaroid art:

“We think of Polaroid instant film as something for ordinary snapshots, but it often became a medium for serious artists. From the beginning, no less an artist than Ansel Adams recognized its potential. Aided by his proselytizing, Polaroid soon caught the eye of prominent photographers. Some used it just for lighting tests before shooting conventional film, but others embraced it on its own merits.”

Like Steve Jobs, they understood that “business should be at the intersection of art and science.”

Edwin Land once said:

“The test of an invention is the power of an inventor to push it through in the face of staunch—not opposition, but indifference—in society.”

In its 50 years of creative revolution, Polaroid passed and aced this test.


More Polaroid Nostalgia?

Our friend and contributor, Robert Sturman was a Polaroid devotee for the first part of his career. After Polaroid’s collapse, the remainder of the film was divided among several artists.

Robert received the last bit of Polaroid, and he dedicated it to two projects: photographing New Orleans’ most loved musicians to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina; and the creation of his largest, most impressive body of work to date, Poetry of the Gods: over 500 Polaroid prints, celebrating the poetry of yoga on the beaches of Southern California—to be published soon.

Read our in-depth interview with Robert here

{Altered Polaroid with Stephen Shaw-Naar. ~ Robert Sturman}

Here’s to yet another inspiring and bittersweet tale of visionary entrepreneurship, that successfully activates our creative muscle.

“If you dream of something worth doing and then simply go to work on it and don’t think anything of personalities, or emotional conflicts, or of money, or of family distractions; if you think of, detail by detail, what you have to do next, it is a wonderful dream even though the end is a long way off, for there are about five thousand steps to be taken before we realize it; and [when you] start taking the first ten, and… twenty after that, it is amazing how quickly you get through through the four thousand [nine hundred] and ninety. The last ten steps you never seem to work out. But you keep on coming nearer to giving the world something.”


~ Edwin H. Land




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Andrea Balt

Andrea Balt

Writer, Creative Troublemaker, Time Traveler, Wellness Alchemist.
Founder of Rebelle Society. Writer, Creative Troublemaker, Wellness Alchemist, Time Traveller. In addition to Rebelle Society, Andrea Balt is also creator of, Creative Rehab and Rebelle Wellness. She holds a BA in Journalism & Mass Communication, an MFA in Creative Writing & a Holistic Health Coach degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. In her work, she tries to reflect the wholeness of the human experience by combining Art & Health + Mind & Body + Darkness & Light into a more alive, unabridged and unlimited edition of her own life and the world she experiences. She is also on a quest to reinstate Creativity as our official Superpower and essential Human Right — to (hopefully and soon) be included in the UN Declaration. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest — and sign up for her Museletter to stay in touch and be the first to hear about her upcoming workshops & events. Visit her website to learn more about collaborating or working with her and catch up on her latest musings.
Andrea Balt

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