In photography “instant camera” has played a key role in capturing the immediate, the instant, the moment on-the-spot with a prompt, direct, swift and speedy process. This rapid, quick and expeditious chain of reactions allows to produce a photograph. This is express, this is instantaneous.

The technical and chemical process surrounded “instant photography” has been engineered by Edwin Land in the 1940’s to produce “instant camera” which could produce express photographs.

Live the moment

Technology and technical progress have given birth to numerous types of “instant cameras” to democratize what is commonly called Polaroid. In fact, Polaroid refers to one brand of “instant camera” that has been very active in manufacturing and developing “instant cameras”. Until now, this process has been highly appreciated by professional and amateurs photographers. It brings you the “instant” right from your camera.

In the current digital era, one may think that the “Polaroid” format will die in the same way that other photographs formats and brands have disappeared. If you chat with some millennials and if you ask them if they know the brand Kodak or if they have a physical photos album… With no surprise, they won’t be able to carry on the discussion. Nowadays, “instant” is brought to you in your smart phone, which is an “instant camera” per se and then allows you to produce, retouch, stock and share photos. We have progressed: technology wise we have entered into a new dimension of photography and representation. In the 1940’s Edwin Land wanted to show the immediate result of a photo taken to his three years old daughter. Today, we don’t only snap people around us, we also want to capture, share and report. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat are the new formats of our “instant cameras” also called smart phones (i.e. iPhones). The capacity to exploit “instants” is limitless: facial recognition, retouching, animation, etc. A lot can be done to live the instant.

The price to pay

To play with these tools and accelerate the instant sharing, some platforms have increased the capabilities of sharing with others, or surprisingly the capabilities to watch others. From a lifestyle point of view, social media have become a gold mine “to create” moments. Photography is then at the core of the attention because photography is power, and behind power there are always interests and control. The level of control has now shifted from the viewpoint of Edwin Land and his daughter watching photos to the political and commercial forces: governments and multinationals. Back in the day Edwin Land was the sole decision maker when he was taking an instant photo. Then, when it was about sharing his daughter’s photo he was again the only one to decide how to share it, and who would be the audience. I believe that’s the best way to value and experience a moment. Quite authentic. Now, forces behind social media dictate the point of view and therefore intend to control what can be shared, where it can be shared. They are telling us that this is the price to pay. Is it?


Sanza Bulaya