Throwback Thursday: The Polaroid Comes to Life

Andy Warhol Polaroid Camera - H 2013
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Andy Warhol Polaroid Camera - H 2013

On April 25, 1972 Polaroid debuted its first user-friendly camera and changed the way the world — and Andy Warhol — took pictures.

Before Steve Jobs, there was Edwin Land, the man who founded Polaroid. Though he launched his first camera in 1948, it wasn't until a company meeting on April 25, 1972 that he walked on stage and pulled a device out of his pocket that he introduced as the SX-70, a folding camera that instantly spit out squares of film. And photography, in its then-cumbersome form, was changed forever.

In between the introduction of Polaroid's first user-friendly instant camera on that April day and the company's formal discontinuation of its signature film in 2008, quite a bit happened — especially as Polaroid relates to fashion. 

In the industry, Polaroids became the standard for model castings and runway look boards. Makeup artists snapped shots of bare-faced Kate Moss's and her colleagues before transforming them into Vogue cover stars. Famed fashion photographer Helmut Newton released a book of Polaroid shots in 1992; When asked by NPR about  his thoughts on the end of the film in 2008, fellow shutterbug Chuck Close responded, "I don't know what the hell I'm going to do." Band of Outsiders designer Scott Sternberg has been personally shooting Polaroids for his brand's ad campaigns since 2007, having stockpiled the company's famous 600 film that's no longer produced. And like Steve Jobs after him, Land too was an aesthete, lending Polaroid equipment to larger-than-large artists including Ansel Adams, David Hockney and Robert Mappelthorpe on the condition that he could keep some of their work. The resulting instant film photography collection fetched $7 million on day one of its Sotheby's auction in 2010.

Andy Warhol also participated in Land's artist support program. And on July 14, 1975 accompanied Bianca Jagger to the White House to pay a visit to 23 year-old presidential son, Jack Ford, who had extended the invite a few weeks earlier after meeting the model at a New York club. Jagger happened to be home alone that week as her husband Mick was on tour, and Warhol tagged along so that he could write a story for his magazine, Interview. Of course, he brought his Polaroid camera. 

He'd go on to shoot nearly 28,000 images on the drugstore medium before his death, capturing a range of iconic personalities which — in the fashion world, at least — included Soni Rykiel, Carolina Hererra, Cheryl Tiegs and Gianni Versace. 

Though the film's fifteen minutes is technically up, it lives on through a group of ex-Polaroid workers who banded together to produce their own instant film and continue the legacy.  Not to mention the countless Scott Sternbergs of the world who, undoubtedly have Polaroid film stored away for that next big White House visit, or simply a pretty afternoon.