Instant Photos | Arts & Humanities Reviews, May 1, 2016

A history of Polaroid and how it changed photography; a collection of stunning images taken from a iPhone camera

Buse, Peter. The Camera Does the Rest: How Polaroid Changed Photography. Univ. of Chicago. May 2016. 336p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226176383. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780226312163. PHOTOG

camera does the restFor some, Polaroid is a nostalgia-tinged household word. For others, the once famous name—synonymous with the instant print photographic process—will be thoroughly unfamiliar, evincing the dramatic rise and eclipse of analog photography with the triumph of digital imaging. Mining the Polaroid archives in the Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Buse (The Cinema of Álex de la Iglesia) researches how Polaroid cameras were marketed, the aesthetics of the Polaroid print, and the social rituals associated with owning and taking instant images. Other books detail the life of Polaroid’s founder Edwin H. Land and examine the company’s distinctive milieu; this scholarly cultural history is distinguished by Buse’s background in ­performance studies. The author is less interested in studying pictures than he is in thinking about the performative moment of taking and sharing instant photos, an aspect unique to Polaroid—until digital photography came into existence—an innovation that led to Polaroid’s demise but was also facilitated by instant film. VERDICT For readers interested in photography history, the cultural history of technology, innovation, and business ­history—Michael Dashkin, New York

Herman, Robert. The Phone Book. Schiffer. Jan. 2016. 143p. photos. ISBN 9780764349881. $19.99. PHOTOG

phone bookHerman (The New Yorkers) is a street photographer with an engaging style and an eye for bold colors, who has been capturing the ebb and flow of urban life since the 1970s. Instead of a professional digital or film camera, Herman has used an iPhone, together with the Hipstamatic post­processing and social media app, since 2010. The author enjoys the limitations of cell phone photography and likens its simplicity, ­quickness, and unobtrusiveness to early 1960s film cameras. This title is filled with color and black-and-white photos that are by turns compassionate, witty, and observant. Some readers will relish the title simply for the quality of the pictures; others may ask whether a hard copy book is the ideal format for presenting images made using an app that was designed to facilitate social media image sharing online. As Herman rightly observes, it’s ultimately the image, not the technology, that people remember. VERDICT This title shows that we’re not living entirely in a digital or print world, but instead one that creatively merges aspects of both—­Michael Dashkin, New York

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