In 1948, the Polaroid Corporation amazed everyone with the launch of its invention: instant photography.
Instant cameras make it possible to obtain a silver image directly without resorting to film development and paper printing in the laboratory.
But let's go back to the origins of this very beautiful project.
Polaroid, the myth of instant photography
The origins of Polaroid
Passionate about the concept of polarization (modification of natural light, elimination of reflections), the American inventor and scientist Edwin Herbert Land carried out research then designed a polarizing filter in 1932. It quickly attracted the attention of scientists and Kodak for whom he will begin to design filters two years later. In 1937, Edwin founded the Polaroid Corporation company. The young physicist then specialized in the manufacture of sunglasses with polarized lenses.
But what does Polaroid mean?
The first part of the word, polar, refers to polarize, polarization, and the suffix oid in English brings the notion of ressembling. So we have an idea of transforming reality, hence the renderings so specific to the Polaroid that are so dear to us.
In 1940, the United States anticipated its entry into the Second World War and asked young companies to focus on scientific research. Polaroid Corporation thus participated in the war effort by delivering anti-glare glasses for pilots and soldiers, but also viewfinders, cameras and many other polarized glass devices.
It was in 1943, in Santa Fe that Land took a photo of his daughter, Jennifer. The anecdote that Edwin likes to tell is that her 3 year old daughter asks her why she cannot directly see the photo that her father has just taken of her.
It was at that moment that the concept of instant photography was born in Land's head.
Imagining a process that would allow you to have a photo in a minute was a radical shift in photography.
Few people believed it at first, but Land is very determined and sure that he can come up with a stable process.
It will first come out of the first monochrome emulsions in square format. The marketing in 1948 brought to the market the first instant development camera: the Polaroid 95 in sepia tones. The shooting is always done using a viewfinder and you have to wait only 60 seconds to see your photo appear. In 1950, a real black and white version followed. All Americans then wanted to have a polaroid camera in their homes in order to photograph and immortalize their memories in pola.
The evolution of instant photography
In 1950, an automatic exposure time system was implemented on instant cameras.
However it was not until 1963 that we would see the second major marketing innovation of colour film: the Palacolor type 48.
The emulsions and devices were then modified until the very famous SX-70 was born in 1972. It was a small format foldable device which can eject the Polaroid film automatically and develop it in about ten minutes.
Lover of science, photography and art, Land never stopped perfecting his creation in his laboratory.
Polaroid then had the monopoly of instant photography, until 1976 when Kodak released its first cameras: The Kodaks ek4, ek6 or even ek8. Polaroid took legal action against Kodak for counterfeiting and would win the lawsuit ten years later. Kodak then had to pay $ 870 million in compensation and was banned from continuing its range of snapshots.
Great artists like Andy Warhol and Paolo Roversi were quickly seduced by the renderings and the immense artistic creations they would be able to allow them to create instant photography.
The 80's saw the arrival of the legendary films 600 and Spectra. In 1998, the Japanese brand Fujifilm arrived on the market with its Instax range which contributed to the decline of Polaroid which was already in bad shape with the arrival of digital era.
It was in 2009, despite a restructuring 7 years earlier, that Polaroid stopped producing traditional films, overtaken by the arrival of digital cameras. A holding company would take over the company and direct it towards the production of instant printers. Then, Polaroid two would be launched soon after mixing digital and instantaneous technology. Unfortunately, this first test would turn out to be a failure. From 2010 to 2014, the singer Lady Gaga would be the artistic director for the brand.
Fujifilm would also position itself on the snapshot market.
At the same time, Dr Florian Kaps, André Bosman and Marwan Saba and 8 other employees of the former Enschede factory in the Netherlands decided to close the Polaroid factory in order to buy the machines to revive film production. The project was, so they called it "The Impossible Project". After a press release to the specialized press, they exclusively launched films, first in black and white. The objective was to produce 3 million cartridges in the first year, and then 10 million thereafter. Although far from selling as many as the 120 million cartridges produced in previous times, the sales were done by internet and Polaroid fans flocked, delighted to be able to bring out their cameras again.
The impossible brand worked very well and improved its chemistry in 2015 by marketing a second version of its films, more resistant to light, and more stable.
In 2017, Polaroid Originals took over the Impossible brand and continued to bring it to life until today, where these films are very popular. The 600 films are very close to the old Polaroid Corporation emulsions, much to the delight of fans who love these vintage renderings.
A blow for photographers who are fans of the Polaroid process
In 2014, Fujifilm announced the end of the black and white film FP3000 and in 2016, the film FP100. The finesse and perfection of the final result, in particular the negative film that allows the creation of more perfect instantanious results, allows this film to soand out from the others.
Fortunately at La Maison de argentique, we still have some of these 100 packs.
Reminders from different companies are heard about but nothing certain to date unfortunately.
The future of the Polaroid and instant photography
Fujifilm, was faced with very strong demand from the Asian market, and struggled to produce enough films. In 2015 they then launched, the instax mini 8 with a smaller case, which is a hit ! Fujifilm now represents 90% share of this booming market.
However, Polaroid originals continue to take market shares and runs out of stock in front of the growing demand for its film packs with more poetic rendering than its competitor Fujifilm, whose colors are more "realistic". We also find Lomography which has built a solid reputation with its customers.
Thus, the Polaroid still has a very bright future ahead of it, which pleases La Maison de argentique, who can continue to create new polas every day.
Analog photography with a retro look therefore continues to attract more and more followers of these different formats including the snapshot.
If you too are feeling nostalgic, you should take a look at the different categories of Polaroid reproductions that La Maison de argentique can offer you !
The prints are made by the artist in pigment printing with two standard formats: the 20x25cm and the 30x40cm. Other large formats are available upon request.
These giant Polaroids with vintage and pastel touches will bring poetry to your interior decoration.