Polaroid Stops Producing Film

Last week Polaroid announced that it will no longer make its trademark instant film. Bernd Nobel of the International Center for Photography remembers the Polaroid picture.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, Punjabi music with a downtown twist.

But first, we have a passing to note this week. Polaroid announced that it is ending production of Polaroid instant film.

Polaroid first introduced the instant-film cameras in 1948. They were the first instant photos, a kind of post-war precursor to the digital camera. A lot of people grew up with the small, everyday mystery of waiting for the slick, slightly fragrant, Polaroid photo, to gradually come into focus before our eyes. By the end of this year, Polaroid will stop making the film to focus on more-high-tech ventures like portable digital camera printers.

Bernd Nobel is an instructor and supervisor at the photo lab of the International Center for Photography in New York. He joins us from our studios in New York.

Thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Nobel.

Mr. BERND NOBEL (Instructor and Supervisor, International Center for Photography, New York): You're very welcome.

SIMON: I've had the impression that in recent years, the Polaroid has kind of come into its own, artistically.

Mr. NOBEL: It has, and that started quite early in Polaroid's history. Edwin Land, the founder of the Polaroid Corporation, enlisted Ansel Adams to use the films and to help with its development.

SIMON: What do they like about it?

Mr. NOBEL: Maybe for artists, one of the characteristics of Polaroid is that it's one of a kind. It's not reproducible, as a black-and-white negative is, and for that reason maybe it holds a little bit more enchantment for an artist.

SIMON: How did Polaroids change photography?

Mr. NOBEL: As a tool, it allowed professional photographers to proof their work before they shot conventional film. It also gave photographers a lot of confidence or elevated their confidence level in allowing them to proof and experiment.

SIMON: I have to ask about this too. Friday morning, I was sitting on a sofa looking at some family photos, and there were a couple of Polaroids, and when I was growing up in an apartment in Chicago, we had a very red sofa, and this was in the Polaroids. Now we also have a red sofa. It's not nearly as red as it is in the Polaroid. Those colors are wonderful.

Mr. NOBEL: It is, and Polaroid print has its own feel. It has its own characteristics and color balance, and the way it represents color is it's in some cases a slightly soft look.

SIMON: It sounds like you'll miss it.

Mr. NOBEL: Absolutely. There's been a tremendous lament. Even for people who haven't shot a single Polaroid photograph for a long time - felt a visceral response to this.

SIMON: Because?

Mr. NOBEL: Because it was so much part of the culture.

SIMON: I remember growing up with the…

(Soundbite of crackling noise)

SIMON: …My father shaking out the Polaroid print.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: It took about a minute to develop.

Mr. NOBEL: Actually that's a funny thing is when the SX-70 film came out in the late '70s, which was a milestone for Polaroid, and also…

SIMON: Oh, because it was so quick, right?

Mr. NOBEL: It's very quick. You didn't have to shake the film to dry it, but invariably everybody, including myself, would still shake it because it was so, you know ingrained.

SIMON: Bernd Nobel who is an instructor and supervisor at the International Center for Photography in New York.

Mr. Nobel, thanks very much.

Mr. NOBEL: You're very welcome.

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