HIST 1010 Lecture 2: The Polaroid magic (1920’s – 1980’s)

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INTRODUCTIONinstant-university_yellow-border

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Polaroid Corporation, which started in Cambridge, is best known for its instant films and cameras. You may not know that it’s initial market was polarised sunglasses. During this lecture, you are going to look through Polaroid’s heyday and its lasting impacts.

 

THE FOUNDER OF POLAROID – EDWIN LAND
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Land set up a research laboratory at his home in his teenage, started experiments on the first light polarisers in sheet form and to establish the applied science of polarised light. He thought that a polariser would look like a sheet of plastic or glass and that would be practical and convenient to use. In 1929, Land obtained his first patent ever.

He founded the Land-Wheelright Laboratories with his professor to continue his polarisation studies. Later this lab was renamed the Polaroid Corporation. As head of the company, Dr. Land never diversified into other businesses, sold out to another company or borrowed money on a long-term basis.

 

MILESTONESinstant-university_yellow-border

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1947

Polaroid Land Camera was demonstrated publicly

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1948

Polaroid Land Camera was put on sale before Christmas

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1950

Black and White instant film was introduced

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1960

15 second pictures and automatic exposure technology

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1963

Color film and film cartridges

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Edwin Land demonstrating Polaroid color instant photograhy (Credits: The Life Picture Collection)

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1965

Low priced Swinger

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Late 1960’s

Polaroid invited the world’s best-known photographers like Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams and William Wegman, providing them free film and studio space and asked them to take some photos and gave them few prints back in the Polaroid Artists Collection

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Andy Warhol with Polaroid SX-70

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1971

The Square Shooter was introduced

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1972

SX-70 was introduced

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Edwin Land with Polaroid SX-70 on the cover of LIFE

a pocket-sized, self-developing Polaroid camera + 1 inch thick, 7 inches long

A thin sheet contained 8 separated chemical sheets protected by an “opacifer” layer that kept out the sun’s rays while the picture developed outside the camera. Each of the 8 layers respond to a different light frequency when exposed, resulting in brilliant color. Because the dye was metallic, the finished product didn’t fade except when exposed to extreme light for prolonged periods. Polaroid’s main competitor, Kodak, has yet to master this difficult process in its own film.

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1977

Instant Home Movie camera was introduced

 

IMPACTinstant-university_yellow-border

Since Polaroid was established, the Eastman Kodak Company brought the Land polarisers as camera filters. Since Polaroid was incorporated, they began to graft polariser technology onto many products such as 3D movies and glare-reducing googles for dogs.

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The invention of instant camera changed the picture-taking habits of people around the globe. In response to his 3-year-old daughter’s bewilderment about why the camera could not produce a photo immediately, he was inspired to make “a camera that would produce developed photographs as soon as its shutter clicked”. He termed it instant photography.

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Time magazine has described the basic process for instant photography in this way: “A negative inside the camera is exposed and then brought into contact with a positive print sheet. Both are then drawn between a pair of rollers, which breaks a tiny pod of jelly-like chemicals that spread across the sheet, producing a finished picture in seconds.

During World War II (1939-1945), Polaroid designed and manufactured numerous products for military, including colored filters for rangefinders and periscopes and an infrared night viewing device polarising.

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In 1947, Land demonstrated the Polaroid Land Camera with film publicly, and started selling during the Christmas season next year. The camera was a huge success and would remain on the market for 50 years thereafter. Polaroid’s products under Land gained wide acceptance. At present, there are still millions of followers on instant photography.

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