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Innovation/Imagination: Fifty Years of Polaroid Photography

In 1948, Polaroid's founder Edwin H. Land introduced his invention, instant photography, at a time when “snapshots” took weeks to be processed. Realizing the newfound potential in photography for human creativity, Land stated, “[Photography] should be a medium that permits self-expression for many people with an artistic interest in the world around them.”

To that end, Land hired the legendary American landscape artist Ansel Adams as a consultant to test the cameras and films being created. Adams created photographs with Polaroid materials in the American West for the rest of his life, capturing the rugged landscape with each new generation of instant film types, reporting technical observations and sending Land experimental, and often spectacular, photographs.

The critical artistic perspective Adams fed back to Land proved to be of great value to Polaroid scientists. More artists were recruited by Polaroid, exchanging cameras and film for exhibition-quality fine art photographs that reflect artistic innovation and creative experimentation with Polaroid materials.

By the late 1960s, Polaroid formalized its archive of works by artists in the United States, naming it the Polaroid Collection. The body of works continues to expand internationally as the outgrowth of Polaroid's ongoing Artist Support Program. Polaroid offers selected photographers the opportunity to experiment freely with Polaroid materials. In exchange, Polaroid receives a choice of the resulting images to add to the Collections.

This exhibition was coordinated by the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, with national sponsorship provided by Calumet Photographic. Originally organized in 1999 by the Friends of Photography, San Francisco, the exhibition was curated by Deborah Klochko, former director of Friends of Photography.