Instant Photographs

Long before the digital camera Polaroid’s delivered instant photographic gratification, albeit it at a steep price.

Like countless tech inventors after him, Land dropped out of Harvard. He sneaked into the labs at Columbia while developing early Polaroid light filter technology. Land’s Polaroid created polarizing light filters, especially useful as sunglasses during WWII.

Eventually, he turned his attention to instant photographs. They offered their first camera, the Polaroid Land Model 95, to the public in the winter of 1948. The company earned most of its profits selling the expensive instant film.

Polaroid adopted an innovative marketing campaign, hiring famous artists to take Polaroid pictures. They hired, among others, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, William Wegman, Mary Ellen Marks, Andy Warhol, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Kodak eventually created an instant camera. Interestingly, Kodak’s advertising campaign increased the technologically superior Polaroid cameras. Eventually, in October 1990, a judge ruled that Kodak had violated Polaroid’s intellectual property, ordered Kodak to stop making cameras, and awarded Polaroid $909.5 million.

While Polaroid and Kodak were busy suing one another, other companies were working to improve the sensors and technology in digital cameras. Polaroid filed for bankruptcy almost exactly 11 years after their court victory, in October 2001. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in January 2012.

Photo by Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams

“’Always remember that someone, somewhere, is making a product that will make your product obsolete.”

Georges Doriot