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At Least Three People in the World are Still Wowed by Polaroids

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When the Polaroid instant camera was introduced in 1948, it was technology that amazed.

In 1958, Don Ameche blew Perry Como's mind with a Polaroid.

In 1973, Arthur Fisher of Popular Science described the Polaroid SX-70 as "a pocketful of miracles."

Over the years, the bloom fell off Polaroid's rose as smartphones and digital cameras rendered the once-jaw dropping idea of an instantly viewable photo as unexciting as the 8-track tape.

But, Reuters photographer Carlos Barria has now identified Polaroid's last possible market not made up of uncontacted Amazonian tribesmen:

North Korea.

In a piece on MSNBC's PhotoBlog, Barria describes the reactions to the technology invented by Edwin Land three years after the end of World War II as "the kind of surprise you might see on a child’s face as they watch their first magic trick."

Writes Barria:

In a port where we boarded a cruise ship, I saw a group of local workers taking a break. I walked over to them with my cameras and they looked at me as if I were an alien. I took two Polaroids of the group of workers; one for them and one for me. I gave them the Polaroid but they couldn’t figure out what it was right away. Then I took it back and pretended to do a little magic on the paper. The image started to emerge. All their faces cracked into astonished smiles.


Walking out of a restaurant, I saw 28-year-old Pakn Okn Hai, standing in silence behind the counter of a sparse gift shop. With very primitive gestures (I don’t speak Korean) I asked her if it would be possible to shoot a picture of her and she accepted. I gave her the Polaroid, which usually takes 20 seconds to reveal an image. As her portrait was appearing she opened her mouth in surprise and then she gave me a big smile.

Considering the state of North Korea's homegrown photographic technology (the country's Hakmujong-1, courtesy of the always-fascinating NK Econ Watch, the reactions Barria witnessed were not altogether unsurprising:

Attention Atari: there's a whole market out there, ready and waiting to be gobsmacked by the stunning new 2600 game console...

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