Friday, February 15, 2008


You may have heard in the last day or so that the once-ubiquitous Polaroid camera is passing out of our lives. Actually, the camera itself went out of production a couple of years ago, but you could still buy the film. Now, Polaroid has announced they will stop making the film, too – in about a year. That means that people who rely on the archaic technology (Polaroid instant cameras have been around since 1948) will have to pony up the cash and scramble around to buy up as much as they possibly can. Who, in the age of photo phones and digital cameras, would rely on a Polaroid? Well, for one, there’s this guy from Connecticut who travels to Peru to photograph mummies deep in the jungle. It no doubt saves him having to lug along a lot of cumbersome equipment; I seriously doubt he’d get many bars on his cell phone. Other than that, most everyone else, from artists (could create interesting and weird effects) to sales people (easy to send pix of merchandise) to amateur home porn stars (instant photographic gratification and no pesky negatives) has moved on to the new. So who cares about the Polaroid?

Well, baby boomers will undoubtedly make note of this passing. Polaroid cameras were part of what made boomer culture so cutting edge back in our day. And that signature sound, that rolling click-and-wheeze…what person over a certain age wouldn’t recognize that in a heartbeat? There’s a huge generation of people today to whom waving a square of damp Polaroid film and arguing with friends about whether or not the waving made it develop faster is something they’ve only heard about from their grandparents. Remember taking a shot at a party, peeling it apart and huddling over it anxiously, as the images slowing,, magically... appeared? Was it going to be a good one? Or was it going to be blurry? Oh, you had your eyes closed, you dope! Never mind (click, wheeze) try again. I haven’t used a Polaroid since the 80s. I worked in an art gallery then, and we’d send instant shots to prospective buyers by snail mail. I’m sure every aspect of that went high-tech a long time ago. In my retirement, I use a digital camera too, and email pictures to friends, so I can’t say a Polaroid something that’s noticeably missing from my day-to-day life (like that anthropologist in Peru) but still…it was nice knowing that they were still around. And now when you get those emails that say…”How Many of these Do You Remember?” we can add Polaroids to the list, along with home delivered milk, transistor radios, and those miniature wax pop bottles.

References to Polaroid cameras do exist in music, some even pretty recent. Here’s what I found: “Polaroid” by Polaroid, “Hey Ya!” by Andre 3000/OutKast ("shake it like a Polaroid picture") and “Living in Polaroid” by Feeder. I can’t tell you anything about any of those, so if the spirit moves you, you can check them out for yourself. For the musical portion of this post, I’ll offer instead this link to a really cute little video on YouTube that, while not exactly about Polaroids, is at least about something that’s still available. But I wouldn’t count on it forever!

Paul Simon, "Kodachrome" BTW, there's some really funny stuff in this video, but ya gotta be quick! I guarantee you'll watch it more than once. Hey, at least you don't have to rewind a reel of film!

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