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Instant - The Story of Polaroid

I'm not a nostalgist and certainly not a photographer. Hence, the title Instant: The Story of Polaroid - with its lack of creativity and self-explaining inference to what it was about did not excite me. Edwin Herbert Land, however, did. Land is the founder and the idea behind Polaroid. He was inspired by his little girl when she asked "why can't I see the picture now?" after having her photo taken. All throughout the book, I imagined Land as Don Draper with a speech impediment (he apparently had trouble pronouncing Edwin and it came out Din, a nickname that stuck with him all his life) and sucked in every piece of information Christopher Bonanos shared in his book.

Bonanos had in this book, and perhaps has in his other books, a flowing and informative manner in writing that made the book very easy to read. Charmingly he had relevant satirical comments and photos that drew me more. His comment were pretty spot on, for example, he explained the recent hype of using Polaroid photographs or such instagram edits as "some of these analog enthusiasts merely enjoyed putting distance between themselves and their peers.."

The book had different sections covering the journey from Polaroid moving from fantasy to a camera like a telephone that everyone always had on them until bankruptcy, financial missteps, lawsuits and recent rise brought back by Bosman and Kaps with the Impossible Project and Crowley and Bobby Sager who hired Lady Gaga - described by Bonanos as outrageously sexualised, insanely costumed pop singer - as Polaroid's public face. It actually kind of got slightly less interesting, might even shamelessly admit boring, after Land quit Polaroid and the period of McCune and Booth started with too many sad numbers, lawsuits, names, negativities, insignificant and failing improvements; reminding one of an ugly break up.

My favourite parts of the book have to be when Bonanos writes about the naughty instant efficiency of Polaroid in pornography and how Polaroid had to put out a press release warning people against it when Outkast encouraged people with their lyrics: "shake it like a Polaroid picture". I still really like that song, and shake my Polaroid pictures.

Overall the book is certainly a great read for those interested in art and photography. In a very cheesy manner, I think I'd like to end my humble review post with a quote from Land on photography and mainly his Polaroid camera SX-70:

"..it turns out that buried within us - God knows how many pregenital and Freudian and Calvinistic strata- there is latent interest in each other; there is tenderness, curiosity, excitement, affection, companionability and humor; it turns out, in this cold world where man grows distant from man , and even lovers can reach each other only briefly, that we have a yen for and a primordial competence for a quiet good-humored delight in each; we have a prehistoric tribal competence for a non-physical, non-emotional, non-sexual satisfaction in being partners in the lonely exploration of a once-empty planet."

Instant - The Story of Polaroid is available to buy online and in all good bookstores.

Words by Ersin Sinay
22:53 - 04/11/12