Flash of in­spi­ra­tion,

Pasatiempo - - Art In Re­view -

all that should be nec­es­sary to get a good pic­ture is to take a good pic­ture, and our task is to make that pos­si­ble.”

Sub­se­quent Po­laroid cam­eras, af­ter the Model 95, were eas­ier to use and faster, al­low­ing the pho­tog­ra­pher to shoot in low-light sit­u­a­tions and to stop ac­tion in sports. A nifty in­ven­tion for view­cam­era users was Type 55 film, which pro­duced not only a Po­laroid print but also a neg­a­tive from which you could make en­large­ments. And in 1963, af­ter about 15 years of re­search and an in­vest­ment of about $15 mil­lion, there was a peel-apart color film.

Maybe the cream of the Po­laroid crop was the SX-70 sys­tem in­tro­duced in 1972. “Land wanted film where you’re not lit­ter­ing the land­scape with neg­a­tives and also a sim­pler, more ef­fi­cient, mo­tor­ized cam­era,” McEl­heny said. “You had a neg­a­tive of 17 or so lay­ers, and you ac­tu­ally ex­posed the film through a trans­par­ent pos­i­tive. It was un­be­liev­able.

“The SX-70 was a huge in­vest­ment, and Po­laroid took the neg­a­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing in­side the com­pany. There was a very com­pli­cated dance of sus­pi­cion all through the ’60s be­tween Po­laroid and Ko­dak. Po­laroid was fed up with Ko­dak’s lack of in­ven­tive­ness re­gard­ing the neg­a­tive, and Ko­dak was get­ting ready to do its own in­stant-pic­ture sys­tem. It was a gi­gan­tic strug­gle with blood all over the floor. The SX-70 cam­era was very hard to make, but it was a beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful thing.”

The com­pany fol­lowed it with what McEl­heny de­scribed as “a num­ber of clunky but work­able suc­ces­sors” un­til the com­pany faced a new ri­val in the dig­i­tal cam­era. Now the user could see, on the cam­era back, the im­age just cap­tured and could quickly pro­duce prints at home rather than hav­ing to take the film to a lab.

Po­laroid stopped mak­ing in­stant-film cam­eras a few years ago to fo­cus on its own dig­i­tal line. To­day it of­fers the PoGo, an in­stant dig­i­tal cam­era, as well as sun­glasses and LCD tele­vi­sions. And in 2010, Po­laroid in­tro­duced a new “Clas­sic In­stant” model, the lit­tle Pic-300 that pro­duces pic­tures about the size of a busi­ness card. It’s the lat­est it­er­a­tion of a won­der­ful in­ven­tion that was dreamed up nearly 70 years ago in Santa Fe.

“That’s where the idea oc­curred,” McEl­heny said, “in that ‘dan­ger­ous moun­tain air of Santa Fe. Land talks about that. There was an inch of snow on the ground, but you didn’t need a coat, and he refers to the kind of ‘ dan­ger­ous moun­tain air of Santa Fe.’ Dan­ger­ously in­spir­ing, I would call it.”

Ar­ti­cle from Pop­u­lar Sci­ence, 1947

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