Here’s one Polaroid product you couldn’t buy in a photo store: a little box made of maple, sized exactly to hold and sort SX-70 photos.


What’s special about this, you may ask? Well, it was not produced commercially. Someone (probably in the Polaroid shops) made up a few of them, especially for one consumer:

OsbornSt 1

Edwin Land in his office Barcalounger. (Click to enlarge.)

You can see the box at the bottom right in the photo above, on the low shelves. That’s Edwin Land’s office in the Osborn Street labs in Cambridge, where he spent most of his work time, and where the intricacies of instant photography were first worked out. Also on view: a Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos clock, powered solely by atmospheric pressure changes (and what a bit of engineering beauty that is!), some very good stereo equipment, a whole lot of telephones, and (in the tall narrow bookcase behind Land) a great many Polavision film cassettes. That puts this photo between 1977, when Polavision was introduced, and 1982, when Land left the company.

Another photo, this time of the cluttered shelves under the window:


In Land’s office: good stereo and Atmos clock, plus Emily Dickinson. (Click to enlarge.)

This item passed to Holly Perry, Edwin Land’s longtime lab assistants, and she sent it on to me. Needless to say, I am giddy to own it, and grateful for the handoff. Here’s Holly, who today is more often known as Sarah Hollis Perry, in the same room. (You can see the file box on the same shelves, behind her.)

OsbornSt 2

Holly Perry, at work on Osborn Street. She had a similar card-table setup later on, in Land’s lab at the Rowland Institute. (Click to enlarge.)

She says she doesn’t remember who shot the photo of her, but it may have been one of Land’s close deputies—a man named Dick Chen—or possibly EHL himself.

I hope she still has the tweed jacket, which is completely back in style. Seriously, you wouldn’t think it out of place if you saw it at Barneys this fall.



3 Responses to Instant Artifact: The File Box

  1. Bill Warriner says:

    Now that the photo reconnaissance team is here, further analysis reveals that below the turntable is a Phase Linear Model 4000 Autocorrelation Pre-amplifier (a blockbuster if there ever was one at $700 in 1970 dollars)—first built in 1973, so that helps date the photo. Below the 4000 is a Phase Linear 400 Direct-Coupled “Laboratory Standard Power Amplifier” (1972, $500). Both were designed by the brilliant audio engineer Bob Carver. Phase Linear was purchased around 1978 by Pioneer Electronics of Japan, which today still shares Carver’s philosophy of uncompromising design, original thinking, and sophisticated techy esthetics. Bob Carver then founded Carver Corporation in Washington State, and designed signature amps around a revolutionary common-sense concept that Dr Land must have savored like a fine wine. In fact, I don’t know whether the two men ever met, but their engineering philosophies were remarkably similar. Bob Carver is still alive and working. I built my old analog sound studio around Carver equipment. The old Phase Linear/Carver Electronics artifacts are now collector’s items, but that aside, this photo speaks volumes about EHL’s appreciation of great maverick inventors in other fields.

    • admin says:

      Carver amps! I might have known. Wish I could see the speakers, because that’s where the obsessives have the most fun. I bet they were from Acoustic Research, because he was friends with Henry Kloss, but who knows?

  2. Bill Warriner says:

    We should ask John McCann. Bill Wray might have had something to do with the hardware selection too.

Leave a Reply

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.
Website Apps