This generation is all about instant gratification. We snap photos on our iPhones then immediately upload them to our social networks. With just a few touches and swipes of a screen your selfie in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign is your new Facebook profile pic.
When I was growing up, the only way to capture that similar sense of immediacy was with a clunky, yet cool Polaroid camera. Both my brother and I had one, and we often walked around the house shooting photos of our cats, our neighbors or each other, fanning them in the air to aid the developing process. This was long before the invention of the digital camera, and long before the internet. The only way one of our snapshots was shared socially was the time my brother brought an embarrassing photo of me in my pajamas to school.
Now considered a relic from the recent past, the Polaroid is making a comeback in Vegas. Located at The Linq on the Las Vegas Strip, the two-story Polaroid Fotobar and Museum — which opened to the public last night –offers you a chance to turn digital photographs into Polaroid replicas and learn a little bit about the history of these instant cameras. There are other Fotobars around the nation — any many more planned — but the Vegas location is the company’s flagship and the museum is the first of its kind.
“We estimate there are more pictures taken per capita in Las Vegas than anywhere else,” said the Polaroid Fotobar’s founder Warren Struhl, adding, “When I was shown the plans of The Linq I instantly knew it would be the coolest place to be in Vegas.”
At the Fotobar, you can quickly pull photos from your phone, social networks and a variety of other online locales and create custom photo prints that resemble Polaroids, yet utilizing modern-day editing options like Instagram-esque photo filters. A basic 2-D photo on foam-core paper stock costs $1, or for a couple dollars more there’s a 3-D version that looks a bit more like the real thing. Prints come in five different sizes and can be printed on multiple mediums such as canvas, wood, aluminum and wall decals. The store sells frames, shadowboxes, magnets for displaying your prints as well as a variety of other camera-related merchandise, including Polaroid film.
While waiting for your photos to develop (usually less than an hour), you can peruse the store or head upstairs to the Polaroid Museum. For only $5, you will see interactive and educational exhibits showcasing the history of Polaroid and its founder Edward Land, including one of five remaining working 20×24 cameras in existence. Since The Linq is already home to the world’s largest observation wheel, The High Roller, it seems only fitting that it would also be home to one of the largest Polaroid cameras in the world.
The museum also includes rare artifacts, art and advertising from the Polaroid Historical Collection at MIT, such as a Polaroid camera resembling an order of McDonalds french fries. There’s a series of actual Polaroid cameras from throughout the years on display as well as compelling artwork collages created with Polaroid photos.
On the opposite end of the museum, the exhibit “Capturing Celebrity,” pays homage to pop art icon Andy Warhol. Presented by the Andy Warhol Museum, 50 of Warhol’s Polaroid snapshots of the rich and famous line the back wall, including John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Dolly Parton, Farrah Fawcett, Giorgio Armani, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Muhammad Ali.
To the right of the snapshots is an exhibit of Warhol’s Self-Portrait Wallpaper and Silver Clouds, first exhibited in 1996. Air-filled silver pillow-like objects are blown around a glass-enclosed area that’s wallpapered with Warhol’s face. Meanwhile, you are invited to take your own photos with a wax figure of Warhol on loan from Madame Tussauds Las Vegas through Aug. 1.
Another interactive component of the museum is a flat screen television featuring real time photos that are posted to Instagram with the hashtag #fotobar. While this exhibit unifies the history of Polaroid with present day and future photography, another exhibit similarly talks about the ways Polaroid Founder Ed Land influenced Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs. Jobs and Land had several meetings over the years, and Jobs once admitted he was influenced by Land’s dedication to the marriage of art and technology.
According to Struhl, the exhibits at the Polaroid Museum will change from time to time.
“There are so many prolific Polaroid photographers over the year and we are always digging up some great new pieces of the Polaroid history,” he said.
Hopefully my pajamas photo won’t turn up.