Retro is en vogue again. If it’s about music or technology, the trends of the 1980s and 1990s are on the rise and can be unpacked from dusty boxes stored in the attic. No wonder that instant cameras like Polaroid and Co. from long ago are experiencing a revival.
A brief recap
The invention of instant cameras dates back 71 years. In February 1947 in New York City the inventor and founder of the company Polaroid, Edwin Herbert Land, presented the first camera that functioned entirely without any film negatives. Only a few seconds after releasing the shutter button the photographs were printed as full images. One year later the first Polaroid cameras were already sold on the market. During the first three years the photographs were produced in Sepia color and from then on in black and white as well. However, in order to get black-and-white pictures at that time, the photos had to be treated with an extra layer of clearcoat polish. It is not only due to J. F. Kennedy’s assassination and Martin Luther King’s speech that 1963 remains a significant year in our minds. It was also the year that color photographs could be taken with Polaroids. These could even be printed without the additional layer of clearcoat polish.
Competition and digital photography
Soon after, Kodak also started to manufacture instant cameras. However, Polaroid insisted on a patent infringement suit and Kodak did not only have to stop production but also had to pay a large amount of money for compensation. To enter the market, the company Fuji signed a contract with Polaroid before starting production so that it would also have the right to sell instant cameras. With the beginning of digital photography, the interest of consumers in Polaroids started to decrease rapidly. This could not even be avoided by the production of more compact models. Ten years ago, in the year 2008, Polaroid had to declare bankruptcy.
The hype remains
What we as human-beings can’t have, we want even more. This is exactly what happened in the case of instant cameras. The company “Impossible” turned out to be the hero of the hour and took over a factory for Polaroid films in the Netherlands. Demand increased steadily. Older models turned into collector’s items and photography stores cannot be imagined without any of the newer models in stock. Younger generations in particular are fascinated by analogue cameras. We live in an age where Photoshop and the perfect Instagram photo dominate the lives of young people and put pressure on them to be perfect. This fast-paced age is being decelerated a bit by instant cameras. Moments that are worth to be captured on a lens are chosen with consideration before the shutter button of the Polaroid or the Fuji camera is pushed. In contrast to digitally stored photographs, which get dusty somewhere on a hard drive, most snapshots taken with instant cameras decorate the walls of living rooms and kitchens today.