Instant: The Story of Polaroid

Christopher Bonanos, Author
Christopher Bonanos. Princeton Architectural, $24.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61689-085-8
Reviewed on: 09/03/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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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. (Oct.)
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