Originally, the 20x24 camera was developed by Edwin Land and his team to promote the release of 8x10 Polacolor film. Land felt an 8x10 image would not be a dramatic viewing from the stage so he wanted to have a much larger image to present the quality of the Polaroid material.
20x24 was the size of a process camera that Polaroid had in house and so that size was chosen.
In the 1970s, Polaroid built a prototype and five more of these incredible giant cameras.
Edwin Land saw with the 20x24 camera the possibility to provide artists with a new medium for their work. It was created to underline a link between the mass market and fine art photography.
About his new invention Land said: "The aesthetic goal of the new camera is to provide those who have an artistic interest in the world around them with a new means of expression."
From the very beginning, Polaroid peel-apart film was about fine art and professional photography and, many artists appreciated it and used it.
It was not just about the quality and longevity of the material, but also about the creative potential that lies in the Polaroid material, its uncontrollability and the possibilities of change or alienation.
The results can still be admired today. Contrary to the misleading stereotype, the Polaroid image is anything but transient. Galleries, collections and museums the world over are filled with Polaroid images.
These images are neither reproducible nor can they be reprinted. With a Polaroid picture, you can be sure that it is always an original.
It is fascinating to know that what you hold in your hands has passed through the artist's hand. Collecting Polaroid means having originals of incomparable quality.
The 5 production cameras were numbered 2 through 6. There is little to no documentation available. While all of the cameras follow the same design, there are slight and subtle variances.
The first 20x24 Land Camera - the prototype - is now at the MIT, it has nothing inside, the rollers and motor were used in a later model.
Camera #2 was in 20x24 Studio New York under John Reuter and his team. After he moved to Boston the Camera is sometimes used in the Lincoln Center Downtown Manhattan for events.
Camera #3 is no longer in operation and owned by an Austrian non-commercial foundation and sits in a warehouse in Enschede, The Netherlands. It was last used years ago by THE IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT with Integral Film.
In Boston, Elsa Dorfman had her portrait studio with camera #4.
Berlins Land Camera #5 is the only 20x24 Land Camera operating outside the US.
#6 is in the Harvard Museum of Scientific Instruments. It was a gift to Edwin Land on his retirement in 1982 and was later part of the Lands Rowland Foundation legacy to Harvard University.
Number #5 was one the last two cameras built in the 70s by Polaroid's Metalworking and Woodworking Department, under the direction of John McCann; “Vision Research” was part of Polaroid Research.
The Camera was mainly used in Europe in the 1990s at the International Photoshow “photokina”, in the 20x24 Studio in Offenbach, Germany and on location across the EMEA Region.
Jan Hnizdo, who ran the 20x24 Studio and the International Collection from the Germany HQ, brought the camera to Prague in the late 2010s, where he opened a studio on Wenceslas Square.
In 2018, Markus Mahla acquired this last Polaroid 20x24 Land Camera #5 and founded in 2019 the 20x24 Studio Berlin to continue the journey Edwin Land has begun with this format more than 50 years ago.