We will never know exactly who first figured out that using a Polaroid camera meant whatever happened in front of the lens never needed to be seen by a lab technician. It is clear, though, that it happened early on. There are plenty of naughty first-generation Polaroid photos out there to confirm that instant photography’s success was at least in part built on adult fun. At the time, “camera club” sessions were a popular fad: afternoons with a hired nude model, allowing amateur shutterbugs a few hours to indulge their artsy-prurient sides. Bettie Page, the 1950s pinup, got her start in these places, and pornography historian Joseph Slade has noted even frontal nudity in her Polaroid photos from these sessions. The Kinsey Institute has many such Polaroid pictures on file, too. By the 1960s, ads were appearing in certain magazines for a woman who would pose for nude Polaroid snapshots for a price.
Did Polaroid itself know? Of course. Donald Dery, Polaroid’s longtime director of corporate communications, puts it this way: “We didn’t acknowledge it, but we always talked about ‘intimacy.’”