Polaroid In The Digital Age
As a favorite film of many photographers is discontinued, learn how to keep the creative look alive in the digital darkroom
“Due to marketplace conditions, Polaroid has discontinued almost all of its instant analog hardware products. Polaroid has also made the difficult decision to cease manufacturing of instant film products in 2008.” This announcement by Polaroid was an arrow through the hearts of many visual artists around the globe. Soon after its invention in the mid-20th century, Polaroids found their way into the hands of photographers and mixed-media artists ranging from Andy Warhol to David Hockney; when using this medium, artists discovered an inherent softness and an emulsion that could be manipulated, or even transferred to receptive mediums such as watercolor paper.
With the demise of Polaroid film, photographic artists are seeking new ways to express themselves in an increasingly digital world. Fujifilm has sought to capture this market with its own brand of instant film, which works well for checking images. However, the film neither allows for the classic and popular Polaroid transfer technique nor successfully renders the soft colors that many artists find appealing.
Japanese-born, California-based photographer Sachi Kato has found a way to seamlessly make the transition from analog to digital, re-creating the feel of her Pictorialism-inspired flower series begun with 4x5 Polaroids through delicate use of digital techniques.
Kato credits her early exposure to Japanese ceramics and painting for her interest in a hands-on approach to artistry. Her father, an artisan potter, taught her to make objets d’art out of clay when she was a child, while her grandmother, a painter, demonstrated how ideas could be leant permanence by introducing a brush and paint to canvas. Immersed in artistic pursuit from an early age, Kato asserts, “Art has always been an essential part of my life.”
Unlike the generations of artists in her family before her, Kato is most comfortable expressing herself with a camera. Although she began her career with Polaroids in hand, she now explores images with a digital camera and computer. While her image-capture equipment has changed, her subject matter hasn’t. Kato has found continual inspiration in the forms of flowers due to the unique tranquility with which they imbue an observer. She finds endless variety in her subject matter, pointing out that, “No two of even the same specimen are exactly alike.”