THE BLOG
13/02/2015 09:20 GMT | Updated 14/04/2015 06:59 BST

To Have and to Hold: Elvis, Polaroid and the Impossible Dream

The title of Patrick Grant's Original Man: The Tautz Compendium Of Less Ordinary Gentleman is enough to leave you breathless, the book itself a thing of beauty. A dazed 50's Elvis stares out from its hardback cover while icon after icon competes for space on the pages within. Informative to a point, this is more a shrink-wrapped celebration. Needless to say there isn't a Kindle version. That would be to strip it of its splendour but, more importantly, it would truncate the whole experience that something like Original Man offers: discovery, anticipation and ownership. There's joy to be found in all these things not least holding the book in your own hands. The shrink-wrap need never come off. It's the process, stupid.

It's the same process that has offered some salvation to a beleaguered music industry (vinyl sales hit 1m last year) yet, as a simple pleasure for austere times, is still misunderstood by its elder statesmen. U2 were particularly fastidious in removing any of the above enticements from the cheerless release of their recent album, Songs Of Innocence. Only last week Neil Young dismissed vinyl as "a fashion statement" whilst promoting the superior audio his Pono digital player claims to offer. Yet he's missing the point. The clinical pursuit of sonic perfection, while admirable, leaves many of us cold. Chancing upon a second hand copy of After The Gold Rush warms us somehow.

Grant's stylish tome is mirrored elsewhere in both the fast-emerging underground print scene and established magazine titles. Blogs such as It's Nice That, Mag Culture and Stack celebrate the fresh wave of print mags tapping into a renewed appetite for anticipation with irregular but high-end offerings. Meanwhile, under the stewardship of art director Nick Millington, the ever-classy Esquire's current issue takes an "Icons Of Style" theme featuring James Dean, Paul Newman and Elvis (him again) on a variety of different covers thus making them aesthetically bankers even before the content arrives. With 101 lists - the scourge of early noughties publishing - now thankfully the domain of Buzzfeed, print magazines have their sites set firmly back on the coffee table again and are all the better for it.

So far, so seventies, but this is not simply an exercise in nostalgia. By effectively becoming the ultimate format, the Internet has ushered in a timeless culture not necessarily concerned with what's new anymore as much as what's best. The XX's debut record eerily sound-tracked the humble origins of tech city but it's the title of their 2012 follow-up, Co-Exist that best predicted the current cultural climate: Vinyl is embraced, Myspace ditched, Twitter soars, Mini Discs forgotten, Super 8 is loved, Newspapers fade. The iconography of the physical past sits alongside the convenience of the digital present, a level playing field where only the strongest survive.

Nowhere have these two worlds been as neatly spliced together than at The Impossible Project. Having saved Polaroid machinery from extinction, the tricky task of reviving both the film and cameras gave the project its defiant name. The only company in the world producing instant film for classic Polaroid cameras, their breakthrough moment seems likely to come this month with the introduction of the Instant Lab Universal. For the first time, users will be able to produce actual Polaroid pictures from their Instagram accounts in the comfort of their own home. In terms of an analogue and digital coming together it doesn't get much more symbolic and where, for instance, vinyl records packaged with download codes feels like a strained relationship, here's a marriage that works from the start.

Whether you dismiss it as a fad or see it as part of the larger 'Maker Movement', there can be no denying that in a digital-led world the likes of Grant's book, print magazines and vinyl continue to prosper as anticipation stems the tide of instant gratification. The polaroid, a dazed but restored 50's icon itself, looks set to take its seat at the head of the table.