THE INSTANT IMAGE: Edwin Land and the Polaroid Experience by Mark Olshaker

THE INSTANT IMAGE: Edwin Land and the Polaroid Experience

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With 500 patents and whole swaths of the fields of photography and optics to call his own, Edwin Land is a scientist whose Polaroid Corporation has built a billion-dollar business on the strength of his ideas. Land pioneered development of the SX-70 instant-photo camera, developed theories of color vision, invented the polarization process by which glare is filtered out of lenses, and made improvements on microscopes and other optical apparatuses. On the other hand, Land believes technology is the nostrum for all ills, and he is not to be relied on for an objective appraisal of his own inventions: of his SX-70 camera he declared ""a new kind of relationship between people is brought into being by SX-70."" Author Olshaker gives a creditable if sometimes too credulous account of this man and his company. He recounts in impartial fashion the growth of the art and business of photography, the competition with Kodak, and such specific corporate issues as Polaroid's problems in South Africa in the early Seventies and policies toward unions and community relations in Cambridge, Mass., at the headquarters of the firm. However, Olshaker tends to forget that inventor and major-stockholder Land is not likely to assess objectively either Polaroid or photography in general. He does accept Land's faith in technology for what it is--an increasingly-questioned assumption--and he does give us a feel for the advances in photography since the camera obscura of the 16th century and the effect of those advances on our perception of ourselves. As a corporate history, the book is competent but unremarkable; as a biography, it's a bit too praisy. And the chapter on Land's philanthropies, as well as the four-page appendix of his honorary doctorates, are hardly of general interest.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1978
Publisher: Stein & Day