New York magazine editor Christopher Bonanos has written a new book titled Instant: The Story of Polaroid, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of Edwin Land’s revolutionary company. In the video above, Bonanos offers a brief history of Polaroid, including how Land’s ideas inspired entrepreneurs to follow:
[Edwin] Land did no market research. He once said that marketing is what you do if your product is no good. Instead, what he believed was this: you had to show people something they had no idea they wanted, but that was irresistible. To that end, what he would do was turn Polaroid’s annual meeting into sort of a show. He would get up on stage, he would show the new camera, he would demonstrate whatever the new product was, and by the end of the meeting you completely had to have one. You were drawn into Polaroidland.
Remind you of someone? If you’re thinking Steve Jobs, you’re right. The similarities were not a coincidence. As we shared last year, Steve Jobs considered Land his role model, and used many of his ideas in turning Apple into the juggernaut tech company it is today.
You might recognize the photograph above. Titled Valley Of The Shadow Of Death and snapped by British photographer Roger Fenton in 1855, it’s considered to be one of the oldest known photographs of warfare. Problem is, it might also be one of the oldest known examples of a staged photograph. Read more…
Want to know what the professional photography industry was like over half a century ago, and what advice was commonly given to aspiring professionals? Check out this 10-minute vocational guidance film from 1946 that offers a quick overview of the various types of photography that people went pro in at the time. Suggested careers include portrait photography, commercial photography, and photojournalism. Here’s how the video starts off:
Photography is often called “the universal hobby.” It is a means of creative expression within the reach of people in all walks of life, and it speaks a language that everyone can understand.
The camera lens is a mechanical eye: seeing everything, and recording everything. It captures actions that will never again be repeated.
It’s fascinating to see how much the industry has changed in some ways, while remaining virtually unchanged in others. The brief glimpses of negative retouching are probably quite foreign to many modern day photographers, while the tip on starting photography as a hobby first is still heeded by many an aspiring photographer today.
At first glance, New York-based photographer Richard Barnes‘ Civil War photos might look like they were taken from some museum or historical photographic archive. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll begin to notice things that are quite peculiar. In one of them, there’s a pickup truck parked in the background. In another, a man wears a T-shirt and baseball cap — certainly not the fashion you’d expect to see in a mid-1800s photo.
The truth is, Barnes creates beautiful war photos that appear to be from over a century ago by using the Civil War-era process of wet plate photography to capture modern day Civil War battle reenactments. Read more…
Check out this photo showing the inside of a camera shop (and pharmacy) from 1910. It’s the image on a postcard that’s currently being auctioned over on eBay (with a starting bid of $100) by a seller named 2raccoons. Here’s the description:
Up for auction is this extraordinary photograph of a woman in standard Gibson dress standing at a store counter purchasing a Kodak folding camera. The store employee is wearing a jacket and bow-tie which adds charm to the photograph. It is uncertain if the woman is actually buying the Kodak camera, or if the scene here is “staged,” but $25 is about what one would have paid for the Kodak folding camera at that time, which can be seen on the cash register.
$25 for a top-of-the-line camera. Not bad. Add a couple zeros to that price and you’ll get what many DSLRs are selling for these days. Read more…
Check out this beastly camera used by Signal Corps during the Cold War. It featured a 100-inch infrared lens that was capable of seeing through over twenty miles of hazy air — perfect for capturing reconnaissance photographs of enemy strongholds. The camera was so massive that it required two people to operate: one to frame the shot, and one to snap the photo.
100-inches is 2540mm and the camera appears to use 4×5 large format film, so the equivalent 35mm focal length of this cannon-like lens is roughly 760mm. Read more…
The world’s first color moving pictures have been discovered, dating back to 1902. The film sat forgotten in an old metal tin for 110 years before being found recently by Michael Harvey, the Curator of Cinematography at the National Media Museum in England. The pictures were part of a test reel of early color experiments by an Edwardian inventor named Edward Raymond Turner, and show Turners children, soldiers marching, domesticated birds, and even a girl on a swing set. Read more…
Did you know that LCD screens and live view didn’t arrive until a number of years after digital cameras hit the market? The first consumer digital camera that featured those technologies was the Casio QV-10 (seen above), which hit store shelves in 1995. However, the screen was purely for framing shots, not for eyeballing exposure, and it took roughly 10 years for live view as we know it to become ubiquitous.
The first prosumer camera to use live view for both exposure control and preview framing was the fixed-lens Canon PowerShot G1 from 2000, although this was still in the line of compact cameras.
The first DSLR to use live view for framing preview only was the fixed-lens Olympus E-10 from 2000. The first interchangeable-lens DSLR to use a live preview was the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro, which was launched in October 2004. Its “Live Image” mode could display a live, black-and-white preview of the subject that could be magnified for manual focusing purposes, although the preview was limited to a duration of thirty seconds. [...] The first general-use interchangeable-lens DSLR with live view for framing preview only was the Olympus E-330 of 2006. The first general-use interchangeable-lens DSLRs with live view for both exposure simulated preview and framing preview were the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and Canon EOS 40D of 2007.
Just in case you were wondering, the terms “live view” and “live preview” are interchangeable.
Two years ago, San Francisco-based photographer Shawn Clover began to create an amazing series of images, titled 1906 + 2010: The Earthquake Blend, featuring photographs captured during the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake blended into views of what the city currently looks like. Read more…
Hyperspectral cameras are those that can capture information in the electromagnetic spectrum, far beyond what the human eye — and consumer cameras — can see. American Photo Magazine has a fascinating feature that tells of how researchers around the world are using the cameras to uncover century and millennium-old mysteries:
The historic discoveries are just getting started. No one yet knows how much researchers and scholars will find with this new generation of hyperspectral technology. More than a hundred years ago, in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, archeologists found piles of illegible papyrus. Recently, University of Oxford researchers found that they contained fragments of a lost tragedy by the ancient author Sophocles, of whose plays only seven were known to have survived. New imaging methods have also found portions of a poem by Archilochus that reveal new details about the genesis of the Trojan War. The research at St. Catherine’s could settle long-standing debates over the origins and foundation of some of the world’s major religions.
Discoveries using hyperspectral photography so far include revisions to the US Declaration of Independence, hidden words in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a possible Abraham Lincoln fingerprint on a copy of the Gettysburg Address.