March 1, 2012

History Lesson: Polariod

While I was in the Cities last, I picked up a photo annual of a snowboarding magazine and found a little article about the history of the Polaroid cameras. I thought it was interesting and wanted to share it. Somebody find me an old Polaroid...

In the 1900's, Henri Cartier-Bresson, a famous French photographer, coined the term "the decisive moment." Bresson, known for his candid photography, describes this as capturing a split second of a significant event on film. Thanks to inventor of instant film, Edwin Land, countless generations have been able to capture their own decisive moments and view them first hand.

In 1926, after completing his freshman year at Harvard, Land took time off to work on polarization research. He successfully created a prototype of a synthetic polarizer. Polarizing materials screen light waves by blocking out light waves that produce glare while allowing other light waves to pass through. In the 1930's, land and George Wheelwright III, a Harvard physics professor, went into business together. They crated various products from non-glare headlights to polarized sunglasses, and even polarized filters for Kodak. These filters, which were later called Polarioids, contained a pieces of polarizing material. They allowed images sot in bright conditions to have more contrast and less glare. Land's most notable accomplishment was crating instant film and the cameras that could produce them.

On December 25, 1943, Land was inspired by his daughter, Jennifer, to create instant film. On that Christmas Day, Jennifer asked her parents to see photographs they took that morning. Five years later, Polaroid's first camera, the Model 95, was released. It was named 95 because that was the original price tag. Polaroids became an instant success, selling out as soon as they hit store shelves.

Over the years, Polaroid has released several different camera models such as the Swinger, the SX-70, the Spectra and the Joycam. Various types of Polaroid film also exist: early renderings measured 4"x5", but the standard image size came to be 3"x4". Polaroids were unique in their square image format and white border.

A box of Polaroid film is approximately the same size as a box of crayons, each pack generally containing eight exposures. The sheets of film are loaded into the camera, and the chemicals used to produce the image are stored in the border of the film. As you take the photo, the film sheet moves through the camera and then ejects. Once the film is exposed to light, a chemical reaction occurs and the image is crated. In Polaroid's early days, only sepia film was available. At the time, a roll of film cost $1.75. It wasn't until the 1950's that black and white film because available, followed by color film in 1963.

In 1998, Polaroid stopped producing instant film. Fujifilm still makes their version of instant film, Instax. Things like Instagram are bringing back the Polaroid look in digital form.

Article written by Ilissa Maiatico in Snowboard Canada. Photos from Pinterest.

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