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Hulton Archive, Polaroid Demise

A creative look at the contents of the Hulton Archive, which is part of Getty Images, by filmmaker Laurie Hill. Wonderful narration, fun stories, great animation.

Juxtaposed with the fun above is the demise of Polaroid.  Known to be coming for quite a while, Polaroid officially ends production this month so stories are starting to pop up in the news and around the web.  It’s going to be odd to hear of photographers who know nothing about Polaroid.  It was part of the national culture and it was integral to working as a professional photographer.

Professional photographers had to stock Polaroid film as well as film for shoots. Each camera required a Polaroid back or insert.  Polaroids were a bit like tea leaves; they had to be read and judged.  Since they never matched the film you had to convey their meaning to the client… “Well, it’s darker and bit more contrasty, it’s also greener than the film will be…”  And then there was the wait.  While many folks think of Polaroid as a minute long process for most pro films it was closer to ninety seconds.  That may seem short but with a client and a subject waiting, or the need to take many Polaroids as you work out the lighting in a shot, it became an eternity.

Polaroid also had its own wonderfully non-digital properties.  It smelled, it could be goopy and caustic.  Certain types had to be coated after the image was processed.  In other words, it always carried with it a bit of the darkroom and in hindsight that was a nice thing.

A couple of Polaroids for a farewell salute.  I miss you and my view camera.

Leah at 3 Weeks, Princeton, NJ, March, 1997
Leah at 3 Weeks, Princeton, NJ, March, 1997
Artie, Deer Isle, Maine, 1993
Artie, Deer Isle, Maine, 1993

Update:  Wall Street Journal video report on Polaroid and the fashion industry.


  1. Great post, Jon. Eerie video, but fantastic too. Your polaroids are priceless.

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