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Polaroid Reinvents Itself Again With “Fotobars”

·Nicole Goodkind

In 1948 Polaroid revolutionized the photography market by replacing the drawn-out process of developing film with an instant photo -- what could take weeks to see was now ready within 60 seconds. Polaroid provided its customers with instant gratification and a quick and easy way to share photos amongst friends, something that Steve Jobs took to heart when he declared Polaroid CEO Edwin Land to be his hero and a national treasure.

In a sad twist of fate, the instantaneous world that Polaroid helped to create ended up being its downfall. The company was unable to keep up with those it inspired and has has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy twice since 2001.

Polaroid has tried to become relevant to Instagram users by creating its own mobile camera application and hiring Lady Gaga as a company spokeperson. But experts said these attempts lost sight of what Polaroid represented and ultimately failed.

Polaroid’s latest venture, however, has the tech world abuzz. The company plans to partner with Fotobar to create a number of stores that will allow customers to alter and print their mobile photos instantly. In a world where most pictures get lost in the buzz of Facebook (FB), Polaroid might be onto something. The company that revolutionized instant photography is now encouraging budding photographers to slow down and give their pictures the respect they deserve.

Christopher Bonanos, author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid and creator of polaroidland.net sat down with The Daily Ticker to discuss the company’s new venture. “What they’re thinking of is some of the magic that made Polaroid work back in its heyday,” says Bonanos, “and this does some of that, it gets into some of that same mind space for lack of a better term.”

Polaroid plans on opening 10 Fotobar locations in 2013. The first will be a 2,000 square foot flagship store in Delray Beach, Florida slated to open this February. The Fotobars will have a similar look to the Apple store and will be designed to function not only as retail outlets but also as a place to soak in the Polaroid experience -- there will be a gallery space that is available for parties and photo classes.

Polaroid CEO Scott W. Hardy says in a press release this is the perfect encapsulation of what the company represents.

“Polaroid is about sharing life’s most precious and memorable moments. We have been, and continue to be, about self‑expression, creativity and fun. Polaroid Fotobar retail stores represent a perfect modern expression of the values for which we have stood for 75 years. We are very excited about the opening of these stores, and the opportunities they will create for millions of consumers to have classic Polaroid experiences.”

The stores will allow customers to select photos from their phones and wirelessly transfer them to a workstation where they can digitally manipulate the pictures to their liking. Once the photo is ready to go it can be printed on a wide variety of materials and will receive custom framing. Trained “Phototenders” will be on hand to assist with any step of the process.

Photo developing kiosks have all but disappeared since the advent of the digital camera and high-quality camera phone but Polaroid is betting that there is still demand for an updated version of the old process.

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