The magic of instant photography is here to stay

Published by Miami Institute Of Photography on


Almost 75 years have passed since Edwin Land invented instant photography, thanks to the curiosity of his 3 year old daughter who asked him why she couldn’t see the picture he had just taken right away. The question launched a research that became reality 5 years later, in a Jordan Marsh store in Boston, on November 26, 1948, with the first Polaroid Land Camera, Model 95, and Land Film, Type 40. The 56 cameras brought to the demonstration sold out that same day. It was the beginning of a successful story that merged science and the arts in order to allow the photographer to observe his work and his subject matter simultaneously. It also made it easier for people to keep a memory of their precious moments instantly, reaching out to almost half of all american households by year 1960, according to Polaroid’s records.

Famous photographers took part in this venture, by testing the cameras, films, filters and film processors, among them Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham and Harry Callahan. The initiative ended in an artist support program and a photo collection that embraced the history of photography of the second half of the 20th century, including the works of André Kertesz, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Helmut Newton and William Wegman, just to mention a few that were part of the Polaroid Collection, containing an estimated 16,000 photographs by the year 1994.

But the history of success came to an end in the first decade of the 21st century, both due to the arrival of the digital age and also to the case of fraud that forced the company to close down in 2008 and to cease producing film. Almost ten years have gone by and the market of digital cameras has grown and become more sophisticated, in terms of design, performance and perfection of the artifacts and the final image. At the other end, smartphones are rapidly redefining photography, in terms of access, quality and the instantaneous sharing that the device enables. But none of this has so far fulfilled the amazement of the Polaroid era, marked by the possibility of making a moment eternal, in seconds and in front of our eyes.This gap prompted photography companies to develop new instant cameras, that are now available in various formats and sizes, targeted for wide audiences, ranging from amateur to professionals. We have selected a few that are considered to be good choices for either beginners in instant photography or for reconnecting with it, making the magic possible again, and in the palm of your hand.