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Dec. 09, 2008

A Farewell to the Polaroid

This month sees the end of the Polaroid snap shot as weíve so fondly known it the past forty years or so. Theyíll cease production of the Polaroid instant pictures.


I remember so many years ago, my mother getting a Polaroid camera from my dad for Christmas.  The process was still in the roller and reagent days. The photo was drawn through rollers to break a package of developing reagent.  Messy and smelled bad but she loved it. She spent the day taking pictures of my dad sleeping.  I never understood that, but watching those pictures develop like ghosts making their spectral appearance was the coolest thing.


In 1972, a process of layers of paper was created and it left a hands-free approach without the messiness of the reagent step. That process became what Polaroid was all about for many years. 


Being a grown woman in the late seventies/ early eighties, we all remember what places the Polaroid instant snapshot played in many social and personal lives. Ah, those were the days.  No embarrassment at the photomat.  No wondering what might be on that party roll of film.  With the Polaroid, we saw it come to life before our very eyes, without prying eyes or lengthy waits.


I remember more than a few going ooky in the picture box; maybe moisture or a bad reaction to the developer chemicals. But I also remember the fun we had having pictures come up instantly, although in those days, with a distinct greenish tinge no matter how you fixed the lighting.


It seemed astounding to us at the time.  So State Of The Art. So Jetsons.


Birthdays and holidays were now memorialized instantly. My father spent all our special moments with his eye jammed to the eyepiece of the Polaroid Land camera.  My mother would nag at him to put it down and spend the moment with us.  She always maintained that the memory was more important than the chronicling of the memory. Ultimately I got what she meant when, while on the journey of my life a box of photos was lost. Dear photos. Gone.  And when I survived the loss, I understood her words.


Now, people hold cell phones aloft at events and occurrences, as though beckoning the gods to bless them with an image.  Itís weird but itís the Polaroid of the present. I understand why the Polaroid instant process has become a dinosaur in this age of digital and easy photographic choices. Its time has passed and with it an era.


I will always remember it fondly.  For many reasons, but most particularly, the magic of the instant photograph will live in my memory as one of the great futuristic special effects of the time. You canít put a price on that kind of wonder and awe.



©  2008 JLD



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