When a Polaroid Was Instant Gratification

Three Boys and a Polaroid by Jann Alexander © 2013
Three Boys and a Polaroid by Jann Alexander © 2013

In an Instagram world when a quickie effect can turn a contemporary image vintage with a fingertap, I’m often nostalgic for the awe a Polaroid portrait could summon—as this SX-70 print did for three friends on a hot summer day in a Western town in the 1980s. A moment I recorded in one split-second shows their utter delight at seeing their own story come slowly to life, soft colors emerging into richer ones, details revealing themselves as arched eyebrows, smudged freckles, a chipped tooth, while the Polaroid develops.

I’m nostalgic now for the kind of respect a Polaroid commanded. You didn’t have to wait long, but you did have to wait just a bit, to see the image emerge right before your eyes. Polaroid took what was previously a mystery contained inside a camera and gave it to us in a novel process that practically invented the demand for immediacy.

Decades later, this is still one of my all-time favorite photographs, made with my pre-digital era Pentax SLR on Kodachrome 64, when the most instant photo-gratification you could get came out of a Polaroid camera. 

Order a print of this image: Email Jann Alexander

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