Yesterday, February 21st, 2008, was the 61st anniversary of Edwin Land's first demonstration instant photography to the Optical Society of America. Yesterday was also when Polaroid officially announced their withdrawl dates for instant film.
Less than a year ago, I got my first "real" Polaroid that takes peel-apart photos: an Automatic 100. My wife's father bought it in Japan in 1963 when he was in the Navy, and his name is still engraved on the nameplate on the bottom. It sat in its stylish carrying case for decades until I dug it out. I put in a fresh battery and off I went. I figured I'd take as many pictures as I could until they stopped making the film. I didn't know the end was coming so soon, and in such a strange way, though.
Polaroid's official dates are quite nebulous. They're labeled as Projected Availability Until* which, if you follow the asterisk, is subject to change. But then they make the end even more mushy. Polaroid is happy to let other companies slap the Polaroid logo on whatever they make as long as the price is right, so they might let someone else make the film. From the Boston Globe: Polaroid chief operating officer Tom Beaudoin said the company is interested in licensing its technology to an outside firm that could manufacture film for faithful Polaroid customers. This of course is only just a tease until someone actually does it.
Ah, but some may say that Fujifilm makes instant stuff, which is technically superior to Polaroid's, so can't they take up the slack? I'm hopeful, too, but Fuji is a smaller part of the whole instant film ecosystem that Polaroid dominated. Once Polaroid exits, some may give up instant photography altogether, leaving an even smaller market for Fuji to sell to.
Maybe in a year we'll know for sure.
Oh, and look at my Polaroids, which I must admit are mostly taken on Fuji film.
I leave with this retrospective on the history of Polaroid and Dr. Land's legacy, complete with interview with their smarmy current owner on the future direction of the "company."