In “Polaroid’s SX-70: The Art and Science of the Nearly Impossible,” I had a lot to say about a single fascinating Polaroid camera. But almost everything Polaroid did was fascinating, and it didn’t all involve instant photography. I came across a lot of stuff that didn’t fit into the SX-70 story. Such as this…
Before Edwin Land invented the instant camera, he invented synthetic polarizers. He realized in the 1930s that one application of the technology would be 3D movies, but it wasn’t until 1952 that the idea took off–and only briefly at the time.
In its May 16th 1953 issue, the New Yorker published a story on Polaroid’s 3D glasses and concerns over whether they were unsanitary. Polaroid had been selling instant cameras for five years at that point, but they didn’t merit a mention in the story–Land was apparently still more famous as the polarizer guy.
If you replaced the references to Polaroid with RealD and the one to Bwana Devil with, say, Thor, you could practically republish this story today. Fifty-eight years later, people are still freaking out over germy 3D glasses and figuring out ways to disinfect them.
And hey, I just learned that Polaroid Eyewear–a separate company from the current version of the Polaroid that sells photography-related stuff, but descended from the original Polaroid–is selling 3D glasses all over again.