The Voice of Edwin Land

I’ve just finished reading Land’s Polaroid by Peter C. Wensberg (you can find it on amazon very cheap), a fascinating history of the company from its foundations in the 30’s with polarising screens, through the huge contributions to the war effort, the post-war invention of instant photography, up to the early 80’s when Edwin Land retired. Wensberg ran the marketing at Polaroid from the 60’s until he left in 1982. Youtube is full of the adverts he spearheaded, and he describes in detail the shooting of the original Swinger campaign, and the fear that nobody would look at the camera because Ali McGraw was so stunning in a bikini. (Also note the groovy song – sung by Barry Manilow!)

You get a good idea of the intensity of Edwin Land’s presence through tales and photos, but inevitably missing is what he sounded like. Youtube doesn’t seem to have much on offer, but I did find this clip from an episode of the British TV science programme Horizon from 1986. I’m pretty sure I watched it when it was on.

At last here’s the voice of Land, in his mid 70’s.

He is the serious scientist, not one to favour being in front of the camera. I want to see more of this programme! I know that the subtractive light system featured in the ill-fated Polavision movie camera, but I would love to know more from the scientist Land about his work. And I love how even in the mid 80’s science on television was allowed to be about the science: slow, deliberate, serious. No need for flashy camera moves and CGI. I think there’s room for both, but definitely want to see more like this.

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