The first was instant photography, where both photographer (and human subject) could sample their image immediately. The second was digital photography, with a different -- and less expensive -- type of instant image.
Garn observes that Polaroid's instant film led the way to an even more immediate film processing technique: the digital image. "Ironically, this alternative hastened the demise of Polaroid" (Garn).
Current Status of the Technology
The current status of Polaroid technology is questionable. With the rise of digital filmmaking and photography -- Polaroid, once at the height of the photography industry, has plummeted. In the 70s, Polaroid had the SX-70, "the first integrated camera and film system [that allowed] the pictures to develop outside the camera by themselves" ("Polaroid Corporation"). Kodak followed with its EK-4 and EK-6 after severing ties with Polaroid. Law suits followed. Polaroid eventually won $925 million in damages as a result of infringement by Kodak.
In the 90s, Polaroid was attempting to regain its technological footing in the industry as sales failed to mount: new frontiers were examined. Emphasis was placed on "developing youth-oriented instant cameras, such as the I-Zone Instant Pocket Camera, which was a slender camera that produced miniature instant prints. But as digital photography boomed, instant photography "was becoming technologically obsolete" ("Polaroid Corporation").
Today, Polaroid still has its followers. The Polaroid camera has, in fact, become a kind of vintage novelty -- a fad for youngsters and hipsters who want to show off a kind of flair for old school technology. Thus, campaigns like "Save the Polaroid" and "The Impossible Project" follow the latest Polaroid news: "The new licensee of the Polaroid Brand -- The Summit Global Group -- will re-launch the legendary Polaroid One Step Camera and is therefore commissioning The Impossible Project to develop and produce a limited edition of Polaroid branded Instant Films in the middle of 2010" (Kaps).
Art shows and exhibitions featuring Polaroid pictures are also seen sprouting up in cities across the nation, attracting alternative artists and art fans with a taste for the nostalgic style of Polaroid photos. Hiawatha Bray on the other hand reported in 2008 that "Polaroid Corp., the Massachusetts company that gave the world instant film photography, is shutting down its film manufacturing lines in the state and abandoning the technology that made the company famous."
But this is where The Impossible Project comes in: starting off as a group of former Polaroid employees, The Impossible Project has grown into a global enterprise to preserve a part of American heritage: Polaroid.
In October 2008 The Impossible Project saved the last Polaroid production plant for integral instant film in Enschede (NL) and started to invent and produce totally new instant film materials for traditional Polaroid cameras. In 2010 Impossible saved analog instant photography from extinction by releasing various, brand new and unique instant films. Therewith Impossible prevents more than 300,000,000 perfectly functioning Polaroid cameras from becoming obsolete, changes the world of photography and keeps variety, tangibility and analogue creativity and possibilities alive. ("About Impossible")
The Polaroid vision has now taken a new direction and is part of a vision of preservation -- a backward looking program rather than a forward looking one. Yet, the Team still plans on looking forward by preserving and developing new film developing techniques.
In conclusion, the history of the technology of the Polaroid camera has been a rise and fall story: the success of Land to find his niche in the photography industry through the development of the instant film preceded newer and greater endeavors such as digital photography, which ultimately put Polaroid out of business. However, Polaroid cameras still have a special place in global society: they are part of a fabric of the immediate past, and photographers still appreciate the unique quality of the Polaroid print. Therefore, The Impossible Project continues to manufacture Polaroid film for those who love and want it.
"About Impossible." The Impossible Project. Web. 13 July 2011.
Bray, Hiawitha. "Polaroid shutting 2 Mass. Facilities, laying off 150." Boston Globe. 8
Feb 2008. Web. 13 July 2011.
Garn, Andrew. "Polaroid: Instant Joy." A.M. Richard Fine Art. 2010. Web. 13 July