Almost like Magic: Bill Jeffcoat on the Polaroid Camera

Bill Jeffcoat

Bill Jeffcoat

“In 1948, Edwin Land brought out his ‘picture in a minute’ camera for sale to the public.  Anybody in their right mind does not test market a new item in Kansas, and the east coast was swamped with orders and sales.  I became fascinated with this concept of photography.  Priced fairly high, the camera was a huge bulky affair, but Americans were willing to pay.  I asked Polaroid what would be their bare bones, cash up front order for a shipment.  They replied, three cameras and 36 films.  When the box arrived, I was like a kid with a new computer game.  I hardly had patience to read the manual; I wasted three rolls of film before I could even get an image to appear!  It was hard for customers to get the hang of it as there were two drop ins and inter-leafing  and when they did this at home and goofed up, they wanted their money back or a new film.”

Note: Bill’s next sentences that close this letter are particularly interesting, considering the developments of digital cameras since his lifetime.  Bill writes:

“Funny that today, people seem to be not so excited about a photo in a minute.  They just go to the one hour lab and wait an hour.  It has been Japan who has turned the photo industry all around.”  -Bill Jeffcoat

The times have certainly changed.


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