"Pictures in a minute!" In the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, Polaroid was the hottest technology company on Earth. They were an innovation machine that cranked out one irresistible product after another. It was even the company after which Steve Jobs is said to have modeled Apple, and the comparison is true. Jobs's hero, Edwin Land, Polaroid's visionary founder, turned his 1937 garage startup into a billion-dollar pop-culture phenomenon. Instant: The Story of Polaroid, a richly illustrated, behind-the-scenes look at the company, tells the tale of Land's extraordinary and beloved invention. From the introduction of Polaroid's first instant camera in 1948 to its meteoric rise and dramatic collapse into bankruptcy in the 2000s, Instant is both a cautionary tale about tech companies that lose their edge and a remarkable story of American ingenuity. Written in a breezy, accessible tone by New York magazine senior editor Chris Bonanos, this first book-length history of Polaroid also features colorful illustrations from Polaroid's history, including the company's iconic branding and marketing efforts.
Bonanos, a senior editor at New York magazine, offers up a concise and in-depth cultural history of Polaroid and its brilliant and charismatic leader, Edwin Land. Amidst its carefully constructed narrative of Polaroid's rise, demise, and renaissance (Lady Gaga is currently the company's creative director), Bonanos lays out the effect Polaroid has had on the cultural fabric of the United States, from brand identity and advertising copy, to hip hop lyrics and the sexual revolution. The history begins with Polaroid's wartime beginnings in polarizing technology and synthetically produced quinine. Instant photography was something of a side-business to begin with, but it soon took over the company's entire operation. But this is truly Land's story. Long before a turtle-necked Steve Jobs gave highly anticipated keynote speeches to reveal revolutionary new products, Land was penning stylized investor letters and predicting the smart phone. Indeed, these moments of cultural and technological premonition are among the book's most fascinating. Bonanos can be excessively reverential and heavy-handed, but Land and Polaroid's story are remarkable nonetheless. Photos.
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A Great Insight
Edwin Land was a great visionary who shaped an era. This book provides meaningful glimpses into Land, Polaroid, and the photos that documented a generation. A great read for any photo or history buff.