The rise, fall, and renewal of the Polaroid: the icon of instant photography

As the epitome of instant photography, Polaroid both enjoyed massive popularity at its peak thanks to a dramatic fall after facing the realities of the digital photography boom. This video from Business intern shares the history of the iconic brand and where it is today.

Polaroid as an American company started in 1937 when it was founded by Edwin H. Land and George W. Wheelwright III and first entered the market selling polarized sunglasses. Dubbed “the Apple of its time” by some, the company began producing the now well-known instant cameras – also compared to the last iPhone at the time – and peaked in popularity in the 1970s when it controlled close to two cameras. third of the instant camera market in the United States.

During WWII, Polaroid’s main customer base was primarily the military, while the idea for the instant camera arose out of Land’s personal experience with her daughter over the course of a day when she was wondered why it was not possible to instantly see the photo taken with a Rolleiflex camera. . This prompted Land to spend several years working on the idea of ​​creating a self-developing film that could be contained inside the body of a camera. He revealed his invention of instant cinema to the world in 1947, using his own self-portrait.

Edwin H. Land. Image by Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, via Wikimedia Commons

This invention enabled Polaroid to launch its first instant camera, the Polaroid Model 95, a year later in 1948, which sold out almost immediately. Instant cameras turned out to be a success, although they were initially popular mainly among the wealthy who could afford the price of admission. During the 1950s and 1960s, Polaroid cameras became smaller, better, and more popular, especially after the company introduced the first color film in the Colorpack camera in 1963 and a cheaper camera model. , the Swinger in 1965, intended for adolescents.

Although Polaroid sales reached $ 400 million in the late 1960s, Land wanted to go one step further and find a way to create an even more compact camera that could still be carried around and could easily take pictures in automatic mode. . This concept materialized in another popular model, the SX-70, which sported a foldable design and required a significant amount of money to devote to the development of this more complex camera system and the manufacturing power to meet the demands of Requirement.

Polaroid SX-70. By Thomas Backa from Turku, Finland, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

As incomes increased, Polaroid instant cameras became a household name and proved popular both among celebrities, like Andy Warhol, and ordinary families who wanted to capture memories, vacations and events. other personal moments. To introduce something new to the market, Land wanted to apply his idea of ​​instant photography to moving images through his initiative of Polavision – an 8mm film system capable of producing instantaneous moving images.

This initiative – which only sold 60,000 units and was quickly scrapped in 1979 – was expensive and sparked skepticism, especially because Polavision users would be required to have a box specially designed to view the film. Soon after that, Land quit and quit the company altogether, just as the company faced competition from Kodak, who released a camera of a similar design and price tag – Polaroid sued Kodak and won. , for that particular product.

via Business Insider

Despite the victory, this did not spare the gradual decline of the company which relied mainly on film sales. At the time, 35mm film cameras became popular and were found to be cheaper, easier to use, and provided better quality photos, just like the early Nikon and Canon digital cameras. The growing popularity of the digital photography market was an uphill battle that Polaroid ultimately lost when it filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

The company has changed ownership several times, announced that production of instant cameras and films would end in 2008, until Project Impossible began working with former Polaroid employees to make films. , such as the SX-70 and 600 cameras, and strive to improve their quality. . Impossible Project finally bought what was left of Polaroid in 2017 and renamed it Polaroid Originals.

This change in ownership and leadership has helped relaunch the Polaroid brand in the modern world, bringing an analog experience to a digital world, while embracing modern technology to produce products, such as iPhone scanners and 3D printers. Over the past few years, Polaroid has created many collaborations and initiatives – such as the collaboration with Teva, the Keith Haring Foundation and FENDI, the release of the Lacoste and Mandalorian themed camera and instant film, and the launch of the smallest analog camera in the world. , the Polaroid Go and the previously discontinued 600 Round Frame Instant Film, and many more.

The full story of Polaroid history is shown in the Business intern video above, with more educational videos found on her YouTube channel.



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