Sad Sad Day!

So here’s the outline for a speech I did Tues. I thought it was interesting enough to post, but I’m too lazy to re-write it as a blog right now. Oh, but I got a new job…I’m going to be working at “The Picture People” now. Yay. 🙂



I.          Remember your reaction when you learned that Pluto was no longer a planet?

A.         If you’re like most Americans, I bet I can guess what went through your head.

B.         “What?! You mean those poor kids aren’t going to get to learn that My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas thing?!”

II.         Get ready for another one of those moments.

A.         On February 8th of this year Polaroid announced that it was going to stop making film for their cameras.

B.         In other words, be prepared to meet an entire generation of people who don’t understand the lyrics, “shake it like a Polaroid picture.”

III.        Of course, it’s something much more than a set of lyrics that we’re losing with this change and that is why I’d like to talk to you some today about the Polaroid camera.

A.         First, we’ll discuss the beginnings of Polaroid.

B.         Next, we’ll talk about the impact that Polaroid has had on American culture.

C.         And finally, we’ll learn about the company’s decision to stop the production of both their instant picture cameras and film.




I.          Polarization is a technique that allows a material to filter different light waves.

A.         In 1926, Harvard student Edwin Land quit school in order to pursue the study of this material.

1.          He believed that he could develop a material that would block all light waves causing glare, but still allow other waves through.

2.          According to the Funding Universe website, “Land applied to patent this process in 1929, and a patent was granted in 1934.

B.         It wasn’t until 1943 – after several contracts with the United States military during World War II – that the Polaroid Company finally came into its own.

1.          I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but the product that gave the company its success was the instant camera.

a.          On Christmas Day, 1943, Land’s daughter wanted to see the pictures her parents had taken that day and it was this request that started the Polaroid Company’s research on a remarkable path

b.         Land was able to take an instant picture of himself at the meeting of the Optical Society of America on February 21, 1947 with a working model of the system – the photograph developed in less than a minute and the story made international news.


Transition:  With the successful technology, Polaroid had the potential to become a success as instantly as its pictures were developed.


II.         As you all probably know – Polaroid did become a cultural icon.

A.         According to the Boston Globe, “In the years following World War II, Polaroid’s instant photography products…made its brand name famous worldwide.”

1.          In fact, in 2005 PC World named the Polaroid Swinger one of the “50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years”

2.          And according to The Daily Record, one of the defining images of the JFK assassination was taken on a Polaroid.

b.          However, in the age where our pictures pop up in a screen on the back of our cameras as soon as we take them, the so-called magic of Polaroid is lost on most of us and the only reason that the company has sustained itself until now is because of the many artists whose medium is Polaroid.

1.          Stefanie Schneider, a German-born American photographer –  is only one example of the artists who use this technology for their art.

a.          Chuck Close is an American painter who’s work is derived from Polaroid

i.           In a recent interview for NPR’s All Things Considered, Close said that he has a Polaroid of every painting he’s ever done –

ii.          a number reaching somewhere around 2,000.

b.         According to All Things Considered, 70-year-old Elsa Dorfman has worked solely with Polaroid for decades. 

2.          Surprisingly enough, it is the flaws in the technology that has allowed Polaroid to continue to be a powerful force in the art field.

a.          Schneider intentionally uses expired Polaroid film in order to give her artwork a more surreal feeling.

b.         The very fact that an artist never knows exactly what to expect when they take a picture with Polaroid is what has sustained interest in it.


Transition:  Obviously, the ratio of artists who use this medium to those who do not is considerably low – almost as low as the ratio of artists to us “take a thousand save two” photographers.


III.        As with any business, the shortage of consumers has caused Polaroid considerable trouble – forcing the company to announce that they would no longer make the technology required for Instant Film Cameras.

A.         According to The Boston Globe, “They’re obsolete and futuristic at the same time, which is a hard trick to pull off, but the glory – and downfall – of Polaroid was managing to do it.”

1.          The Washington Post began their article about Polaroid’s announcement by saying, “The artsy, instantly gratifying Polaroid images, reeking of processing chemicals, have finally been done in by endless Flickr Web pages full of digital images, flawlessly produced by cameras that do not require film, emulsion or anything bigger than a shirt pocket to carry them around.”

2.          Today we have digital cameras that are not only able to remotely access our printers and print pictures, but are also capable of showing us our picture immediately after we have taken it – unlike the Polaroid which takes anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute.

a.          Although it was ahead of it’s time some 70 years ago, Polaroid has been trying to play catch-up since the 1990s.

b.         According to Mark Feeny of The Boston Globe,“It’s not as if “instant photography” died in an instant, [but] once digital cameras became affordable, its days were numbered.”




I.          Since its beginnings in 1926, the Polaroid Company has been enthusiastic about researching products that were useful to the public.

A.         Land’s development of the instant-picture camera was a huge success in its day, but is now an outdated process.

B.         Although it is still a much loved icon of our past, the Polaroid Company acknowledges that technology passed them by decades ago.

C.         And they will make only enough film to sustain Polaroid fans until 2009.

II.         So don’t be surprised, ten-or-so years from now, if you’re riding in your car listening to Outkast and your son or daughter looks up at you and says “what’s a Polaroid picture?”



2 Responses

  1. Hmmm. Truly a great loss to American culture. I guess. I just thought the were cool, and mostly wondered how they work. And as far as the song lyrics go, I hope my kids don’t know what half of what Outkast is singing about is anyway! If they only ask me about the polaroid pic, I’ll be happy!

  2. I agree – I gave the speech to a bunch of college freshmen and my teacher is an undergrad…and there’s only one other person in the class who has any bit of culture…so I figured it would be a good way to get them interested. Anyway, I got a laugh out of them so I was happy. 🙂

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