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.
“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.
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?
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.
“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