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Book Review: Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos

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In an age where people migrate to digital books read on electronic devices, along comes a modern history lesson, in a full-color format that needs to be read by today’s tech-crazed users of Instagram and cell phono cameras. Step back in time to the drama of true instant photography, with Instant: The Story of Polaroid, by Christopher Bonanos.

Instant: The Story of Polaroid offers an entertaining history of the development of the instant camera by Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid. The book rapidly relates the story of photography, our society, and the life of the first instant camera back in 1948. We fast-forward to the time when new technology caused Polaroid cameras to become obsolete in the 21st century and learn what happens to companies who don’t continue to innovate. You’ll admire the spirit of Edwin Land, who was an important figure in modern photography and was an inventor who worked with skill and confidence.

As the instant photography industry grew, it, of course, became filled with competitors. Along the way you’ll learn a great deal about art, photography, and the techniques used in instant camera. What follows is a powerful discussion of why Polaroid failed and offers a glimmer of hope as to what it could possibly do in the future as a ‘different’ company based on simlar ideas and refocused marketing efforts.

While the entire story is fascinating, you’ll gravitate to examples of the work done with Polaroid cameras by such famous photographers as Ansel Adams and Andy Warhol. Without oversimplifying, the book manages to explain the complex technology details well, so people without a tech background remain interested.

This is a history most of us lived through, and we get to see first-hand the thinking and creativity of Edwin Land and the inventions he developed. Land is indeed an innovator on par with Steve Jobs was in this century. And it turns out, Jobs thought of Land as one of his personal heroes.

Instant: he Story of Polaroid is a beautiful production and a perfect holiday gift from Princeton Architectural Press. Available both in paper and hardcover, there is a small cost difference between the two. So go for Instant: The Story of Polaroid in hardcover. It’s fascinating.

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