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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:658 1905-2005 P762 XI

Polaroid Corporation records, series XI: Photographs of Polaroid consultant photographers

Scope and Contents

The photographs of Polaroid consultant photographers document the company's practice of employing fine art photographers to test and critique their products beginning in 1950 and ending about 1972. The collection consists of photographs taken by ten photographers who consulted for Polaroid and were part of the original loosely structured program: Paul Caponigro, Walter Chappell, William (Bill) Clift, Marie Cosindas, Nicholas (Nick) Dean, Gerry Sharpe, Brett Weston, Don Worth, Ann Bell Robb, and Laurie Seamans. Correspondence and test photographs written and taken by Ansel Adams can be found in a separate collection. This material was separated due to Adams' deep and strong relationship with both Edwin Land and Meroe Morse.

The records are arranged into series by name of the photographer. The content and arrangement of each of series is described in detail in the notes below.

Dates

  • 1950-1972

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information regarding access procedures.

Extent

10 linear feet (15 boxes)

Biographical / Historical

Best known for its iconic instant film and camera, first released in 1948 to great commercial success, the Polaroid Corporation was among the most creative and technologically innovative companies of the twentieth century. From the company's beginnings in 1936, Polaroid founder Edwin H. Land fostered invention and creativity within the culture of a small, science-based research and manufacturing company. Soon after the 1948 camera release, Polaroid began engaging fine arts photographers as freelance consultants to the company. The consultant photographers were involved in the intensive research and development process behind Polaroid's instant photography products. They tested film and cameras and provided technical as well as aesthetic feedback on the materials. Their ability to judge the creative potential of the material complimented the scientific and engineering ingenuity of the Polaroid labs.

The first, most engaged and longest-serving of these consultants was the noted landscape photographer Ansel Adams, whom Land met in 1948. For over three decades, Adams helped guide the company in making products that served not only amateur photographers but professional and creative ones as well. The value of Adams' contributions to its product development led Polaroid to employ other photographers as consultants, many of whom were referred to Polaroid through Adams. As Polaroid's products became increasingly refined, consultants were encouraged to make creative photographs with the materials, not just test photographs, to see how far the materials could be pushed. These photographers included Paul Caponigro, Walter Chappell, William (Bill) Clift, Marie Cosindas, Nicholas (Nick) Dean, Gerry Sharpe and Don Worth. Others such as Laurie Seamans and Anne Bell were hired directly by Meroe Morse, head of the black and white laboratory. Morse served as the main liaison for the photographers, often asking them to test and examine specific qualities of the film, but also allowing them freedom to experiment with Polaroid’s products. Eventually these efforts evolved into a loosely structured program, which Morse continued to lead with the assistance of other Polaroid employees such as A.L. Hyland, who oversaw administration and budget. Under Morse’s leadership, the program expanded, with Polaroid providing consultants with film and equipment and with some degree of monetary compensation, which varied according to photographer. Polaroid also purchased prints from the photographers at mutually agreeable prices (Morse often facilitated these transactions). The function and use of these prints within the company varied – some of the prints were for research purposes while others were displayed as art photographs. Around 1969, the corporation decided to formalize the consultant program, which would eventually become Polaroid’s Artist Support Program, a means by which Polaroid encouraged and supported artists and built its own art collection.

The consultant photographers contributed to the development of the many photographic products that Polaroid released from the 1940s to the 1970s. The 1948 camera and film launched a new photographic process that captivated consumers, producing a fully-developed sepia photograph in sixty seconds. A film producing more modern black and white photographs followed soon after in 1950, and by 1952, a second Polaroid camera was released. By 1960, the company had introduced nearly ten additional roll film types that not only varied in film speeds, exposure ranges and contrast, and included orthochromatic and panchromatic films, but also when developed could produce smaller-sized photographs and transparencies. Within the same decade Polaroid also released its 4x5 film as single film packets that fit into specially-designed holders for use with non-Polaroid 4x5 view and press cameras. By 1961, the 4x5 film Type 55 P/N was released, which produced reusable negatives, unlike the non-reusable paper negatives produced by most of Polaroid's other film types. Even though the roll film was continually improving, the 4x5 system along with the reusable negative marked a turning point as serious photographers were able to use the film with cameras of their choosing and could make multiple enlargements from negatives. In 1963, pack film was introduced, considered to be more convenient than roll film in part because it allowed exposures to be developed outside the camera and, in the same year, color film was released in the roll, 4x5, and pack film formats. In 1972, the SX-70 film and camera were released, the first true integral, one-step instant film process that Polaroid founder Edwin Land had always envisioned. Two additional products Polaroid released at the end of the 1970s were the instant movie film Polavision and the 20x24 camera.

Physical Location

MANU

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Polaroid Corporation records were received by Baker Library Special Collections as a donation from the Polaroid Corporation in 2006 and 2008.

Related Materials

Additional records and correspondence of these photographers and other consultants can also be found in the Polaroid Corporation records, series VII: records related to Meroe Morse and Polaroid Corporation records, series III: research and development records. Also see the Polaroid Corporation records, series IV: Photographs and correspondence of Polaroid consultant photographer Ansel Adams.

Processing Information

Processed: By: Irene Gates, 2014.
Processing Information Due to the large physical size of the Polaroid Corporation records, similar records that are related as a result of being created, received, or used in the same activity have been grouped into series and an individual finding aid created for each. Each series has been assigned a roman numeral which is found in the series title and precedes all container identifiers. The order of the series does not reflect the original arrangement of the entire collection. Researchers should take care to note the full item number when requesting or citing Polaroid Corporation collection materials.
Link to catalog

Creator

Author
Baker Library
Date
May 2019
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English
EAD ID
bak00941

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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