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This post was supposed to be about Ansel Adams and Polaroid in general but I’m going to be a little more specific; it’s based on a Palmer Museum of Art (Penn State) article introducing a 2007 exhibit. The Ansel Adams and Edwin Land: Art, Science and Invention – Photographs from the Polaroid Collection featured over 80 prints documenting Adam’s key involvement with the historical development of Polaroid film.

Ansel Adams, Yosemite Falls, Polaroid SX-70, 1979

Ansel Adams, Yosemite Falls, Polaroid SX-70, 1979

In 1948, Adams became a consultant to Land, for whom he rigorously tested new films and products. Throughout the ensuing 35 years, Adams wrote thousands of letters and memoranda to report his findings and recommendations to Polaroid.

“Many of my most successful photographs from the 1950’s onward have been made on Polaroid film. One look at the tonal quality of the print I have achieved should convince the uninitiated of the truly superior quality of Polaroid film.”

The highlighted quote reads like Polaroid advertising copy but it’s from Adams’ autobiography. It also reads like Adams thought he was completely responsible for the superior quality of Polaroid film. There was absolutely nothing written about Edwin Land in Palmer Museum’s article, although it does say “Adams’ influence on Land reached beyond his work with the film.”

To expand a little, while Land was Chief Executive of the Polaroid corporation, he was first and foremost the brilliant physicist who invented Polaroid film, the first inexpensive filters capable of polarizing light. While Adams was busy being an incredible landscape photographer, sending advice and new ideas to Polaroid laboratories, Land was also helping to design the optics for the U-2 spy plane. He was a frequent adviser to President Eisenhower on photographic reconnaissance during the Cold War.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona, 1968, Polaroid Positive/Negative 4 x 5 Land Film Type 55, image  © Photograph by Ansel Adams.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona, 1968, Polaroid Positive/Negative 4 x 5 Land Film Type 55, image © Photograph by Ansel Adams.

The Palmer Museum of Art provided source material to Resource Library for the article. The editor notes RL readers may also enjoy these [not shown] additional articles. I may want to read the one about Yosemite 1938: On the Trail with Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe.

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NOTE: I’m not sure if the blue 1979 Yosemite Falls SX-70 (top right) was at the Palmer exhibit, but I know I saw it last month at the Loeb Art Center.

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