Edwin Herbert Land was both a scientist and a well-known American inventor. He is best known and recognized for being the inventor of the Polaroid. So, let's briefly tell the story between E. Land and his most beautiful invention, Polaroid. We present you the history of the legendary camera, marking its most important episodes.
In 1948, the Polaroid company created a sensation. He sold a camera capable of immediately producing a barely captured photograph on paper. 65 years later, the history of the Polaroid still interests nostalgic people. They continue to use the legendary devices of the '70s, thanks to the film packages sold by the brand's new "founding" enthusiasts.
Who was the inventor of the Polaroid?
Since childhood, E. Land has been passionate about light and the natural phenomenon of its polarization. Then he dedicated his whole life and career to this passion, his only objectives being to carry out scientific research and implement his own discoveries. When he arrived at Harvard, at the age of seventeen, his passion materialized. He wanted to design an artificial polarizer in the form of an easy-to-make filter. In 1929, E. Land filed his first patent on polarizing films.
He founded Polaroid Corporation in 1937, following numerous requests from Kodak to E. Land to integrate its polarizers for Kodak brand cameras. His business peaked around the 1980s. During this heyday, the number of employees reached 21,000 (1978), and the maximum turnover exceeded three billion dollars.
Like Apple's inventor, Steve Jobs, Land had to give up his business. He officially left Polaroid Corporation in 1982 and founded the Rowland Institute for Sciences. Unlike Steve Jobs, E.Land never returned to the company. He died in 1991, at the age of 81, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At his death, the sum of his works had already been the subject of 537 patents.
1948 – the first model
We all know these devices, either from movies or commercials, or simply because someone around us owned or owns such a device, but how E. Land came up with the idea to create this magical camera ”?
The idea came on Christmas Eve in 1942, when his three-year-old daughter, Jennifer, repeatedly asked him why he couldn't see the photos right away. E. Land imagined a solution to solve the problems of an instantaneous photographic processing process, but it took a few more years. On February 21, 1947, he presented the prototype of the device for the first time to members of the American Optical Society. On November 26, 1948, the first model, the Polaroid 95, was launched.
The Road to the SX-70 (1972)
Polaroid, under the auspices of Land, has improved the instant film process every year and diversified its production:
From neutral tone images, they switched to color images. In addition to the range of devices for amateurs, devices with industrial and scientific utility have appeared. At each stage, Edwin Land conducted the research with care and enthusiasm. Polaroid was a huge commercial success.
When the first Polaroid cameras were released in the early 1950s, the films were handmade. This had a first consequence, it was necessary to open a black envelope to finish printing the photo. The image was damp and sticky. The only solution at that time was to rotate the photo so that a fan would dry.
It is said that the First Lady herself, Lyndon B. Johnson's wife, asked Land to devise a system that no longer produces waste, as parks and gardens were flooded with paper and trash cans filled with batteries.
According to polaroidoriginals.com, at a meeting in 1972, E. Land took a Polaroid SX-70 out of his jacket pocket and took five snapshots in just ten seconds. So the Polaroid SX-70, considered by many to be the best Polaroid camera , made instant photography truly possible for the first time.
This brilliant instant photography process was competed, among others, by Kodak. In 1986, Polaroid Corporation won a lawsuit requiring Kodak to cease all activities in this area.
Early 2000s – danger of death
With the advent of digital photography, the company ran into difficulties and was restructured in 2001. In 2007, device production stopped.
His second bankruptcy in February 2008 was fatal. The last factory closed, the employees were fired. The small square photographs invented by Land were about to become history. The last stocks of movies would run out in a few months.
The impossible project: new beginnings
In October 2008, three men – an Austrian and two Dutch – decided to use their strength and financial means to save the last assembly line and relaunch the process of making the famous films with immediate processing. Aware of the madness of their challenge, they named their company "The Impossible Project."
For 180,000 euros, they take over the lease for the last factory, located in the small town of Enschede in the Netherlands. There were still some old machines imported from Boston, the only ones capable of making the famous silver films. It also buys the remaining film stock, which it immediately resells to finance the rehabilitation of production tools.
They had the factory, they needed labor now. Ten former Polaroid engineers who knew the manufacturing process and believed in the impossible project will answer the call.
Oskar Smolokowski manages to convince his father to invest 2 million euros in exchange for 20% of the shares. Oskar first created the brand's first mobile application, Instant Lab. But he quickly turned to the design of the new rooms, because financial interests are above all.
In addition to repairing and reconditioning old models (50,000 reconditioned to date), Polaroid continues to innovate.
With the brand back in working order and with 4 million boxes of ten photo sheets about to be produced, the goal is now to regain market share. Compared to the Japanese giant Fuji and the Instax model, Polaroid – and its 160 employees – looks like a dwarf, with just over 5% of the market share. The goal is therefore to seduce the Polaroid romantics again.