The first satisfactory process making it possible to develop snapshots instantaneously was invented by American physicist Edwin Land. Made available to the public in 1947, the Polaroid came in a wide variety of models until the company ceased to operate in 2008.

The method used by Land was to transfer the negative’s silver grains that weren’t exposed, which were normally eliminated during development, to another layer where they were reduced to metallic silver, creating the positive image.

The first Polaroid camera, the Model 95, used a special roll of film made by Kodak. It produced black and white proofs, which took exactly one minute to develop. Land’s process was later improved several times. Colour appeared in 1963. The same year, the roll of film was replaced by the filmpack, which meant that one could continue to take pictures, while the image was developing outside the camera.

The Polaroid system, which was a rapid success with the general public, also attracted other users due to its immediacy. It was thus used for identity documents, medical photography or at crime scenes, and became a very popular artistic format.

Since 2010, a handful of former Polaroid employees have been trying to revive production of films.


Polaroid 95, Polaroid Corporation, Cambridge MA, USA, 1948-1953, first model produced by Edwin Land, designed on the folding principle with a leather-covered aluminium body; retractable viewfinder, 135 mm lens opening at 1:11, for an image size of 8.3×10.8 cm.
(MSAP / collection Ecole polytechnique fédérale, Zurich)