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Polaroids by Paolo Della Ciana
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About this series
The beauty of Paolo Della Cianas Polaroid photography lies in its ability to transcend traditional representation and capture the essence of a moment in its purest form. The unique properties of the instant film medium add an extra layer of intrigue and ethereal, resulting in works of art that are truly one-of-a-kind.
What makes his Polaroid work so beautiful is the way in which it encourages the viewer to use their imagination. With sometimes no clear reference point, the viewer is free to interpret the image in any way they choose, creating a personal and unique connection to the work.
What drew you to Polaroid photography as a medium, and how have you developed your creative style using instant film?
I discovered the Polaroid cameras almost by chance during a workshop at a friend's house. I was immediately struck by it, not only because in the digital era, it is almost revolutionary to work with an analogue tool capable of giving you a developed and printed photo in a few minutes, but also because Polaroid offers unexpected creative possibilities, in the phase of the shot and at the level of film manipulation.
At first, I used Polaroid as any other camera, but I soon understood that I had to change perspective and use it differently, not as a testimony of reality but as an opening portal towards new visionary imaginations.
Furthermore, when I started to shoot with instant films, around 2015, the chemical formula of the films (those created by Impossible Project after the failure of the Polaroid a few years earlier) was not yet very reliable; this aspect did not stop me but paradoxically stimulated my desire to master the tool even more.
Polaroid photography has a unique aesthetic that can sometimes be seen as nostalgic or vintage. How do you balance this with modern or contemporary elements in your work?
The Polaroid's vintage effect is unavoidable and part of its charm. I try to use it in my favor without abusing it and to avoid being repetitive and predictable.
The concept of the ‘passage of time‘ plays a central role in many of my photos and I find that this aspect has an innate affinity with the photographic performance of Polaroid films. Furthermore, I seek dreamlike atmospheres, which the Polaroid's aesthetic contributes to emphasise; an absolute benefit for my work.
However, when I want to create an element of breakage or give a variation to my aesthetic, I basically have two ways; the first is related to the choice of the subjects to be represented, which by their very nature can balance the basic nostalgia that emerges from the films: in this case, I like to represent urban panoramas, night scenes illuminated by artificial lights or elements clearly linked to our contemporaneity. The second way, in my opinion even more effective, is the use of creative manipulation techniques that allow to obtain totally different effects from those of the original shot.
What is your process like when creating a new Polaroid piece, from concept to final product? Are there any particular challenges or advantages to working with Impossible and Polaroid Originals film?
The main part of my pictures are staged, but I try to take advantage of casual situations, if I have the chance to do so.
Inspiration can come from different sources: images of other authors, movies, music, everyday life, stories of friends. As I always say, it is our lived experience which transforms into images. Once I have the idea, I start with a small sketch where I imagine the final image and I make layout notes on lights, colors or positioning of the subject.
Then, I organize everything I need to shoot, taking care not to underestimate any aspect; unlike digital photography, taking pictures with Polaroid films has a high cost and I cannot afford to make too many attempts to get the desired result. If during the shooting phase, I see I am very far from the expected result, I totally change my approach and rethink the shot to avoid wasting a “fortune”.
Fortunately, with the experience acquired, I can almost always reach what I had in mind, even if when you take pictures with Polaroid you can never really know how the final shot will be until the development phase is over. This aspect of unpredictability is one of the other characteristics that I love about this medium, which creates an important parallel with our lives. We can try hard to program things, but sometimes events are out of our control and can totally change the direction we were aiming for; this gearbox can be negative and take us to failure, but it can also unexpectedly be positive, making us reach great results.
Can you talk a bit about your work London Night Bus. It looks like an imaginary journey in your unconscious? How many pieces is the whole series?
You hit the mark: London Night Bus is a real and imaginary journey in my unconscious and a sort of tribute to the city that has deeply marked my life path.
This series has been created several years after I made the original images, using manipulation and postproduction techniques. The idea originated after my meeting with the creativity of the NFT world that has opened a new way for me in seeing things. This encounter has generated an experimental force that guided me to innovative approaches to the use of Polaroids.
The pictures of this series were taken on the bus's upper floor during a night journey that took me from East to Central London. It was a rainy night, the bus was almost empty and the flow of water on the glass, combined with my mood of the moment–quite melancholic–helped me to create beautiful visual microcosms, shooting directly towards the glass in front of me.
Interestingly, these Polaroids remained in the drawer of my memory, until I had an enlightenment. I took back those photos and left them immersed in peroxide for several days. During this process, I documented different stages how the film changes while getting in contact with the chemists. Then, with the help of a graphic designer, I realized a mini video to obtain a mutation effect. The results are endless loops where the image turns to the initial state, with the background noise that brings me back to that rainy night. The full series is composed of 8 videos, but I currently minted only 3 of them on my Foundation profile.
Polaroid cameras and film have become increasingly rare and difficult to find in recent years. How do you source your equipment and materials, and how has this impacted your work?
I have several cameras, but in the end I work 99% of the time with my SX-70 and an SLR670. Luckily, there are several people around the world who are able to repair the old cameras, and I know a couple of them here in Italy.
The new cameras created by Polaroid Originals are quite cheap and funny, especially in combination with the app that allows everyone to easily use creative effects like double expositions or light paintings. The real issue are the films; as mentioned earlier, the failure of Polaroid around the year 2008 has interrupted the creation of some types of film such as the peel-apart or the spectra ones: today those are still in circulation, but cost a fortune and do not guarantee any type of results.
The new generation of films, on the other hand, have reached an excellent level of reliability and are well distributed in Europe and in the United States, both physically and on e-commerce channels, if you can afford them. One single film today costs more than 2 euros and for this reason, I am sometimes quite cautious in what I capture.
In any case, as said before, the unpredictability in the result of the film is something that stimulates me particularly and I do not disdain to find some offers on expired films on eBay or on the various specialized markets. Of course, the risk is to have non-performing films, but the possibility of obtaining some unexpected results is worth attempting.
Many people see instant photography as a more casual or spontaneous form of image-making. How do you approach using Polaroids as a serious artistic medium, and what do you hope to communicate through your work? And do you see the NFT space as a chance for your works?
If we speak of Polaroid, the overwhelming perception is that of a simple object which is useful to document the daily life of every family, travel, parties and happy moments. In fact, this was the main use of the tool in the boom years, as well as more professional uses.
However, early on, I perceived it as a perfect tool to produce artistic creations, because it is possible to experiment in a rather effective way, both during the shooting and through its various type of manipulations. Double exposures, mosaics, lift off and film soup are among my favorite creative options, but there are many possibilities for experimentation.
It would be hypocritical to say to you that when I shoot I am fully aware of the message that I want to get to those who will look at my photographs; What I try to do is tell stories, but my photographs are only the starting point, the ‘incipit‘, the beginning of a story. And the viewer has to build and interpret on the basis of his personal experience. In this sense, often my images are dreamlike, ‘dirty‘, undefined, just to leave as far as possible to the imagination of the viewer. Obviously, with wider series, this path is simplified, but also when I shoot single images, I always have this principle of reference in mind.
The meeting with the world of NFT has been illuminating to me. Arriving from a mainly analogous culture, you can imagine that at first the words ‘Metaverse‘, ‘Crypto‘ and NFT, represented a great question mark for me and I thought they were elements very far from my artistic trajectory. Then one day, I randomly listened to an interview by the artist Skygolpe, who literally opened a new world to me, and I thought that also my works could have find their own space within this NFT world.
I started exploring the NFT space and in April 2022 I minted my first pieces, with a good response, especially within the Tezos environment.
I’m not an an expert on the technical part, but in the last year I discovered a world of creativity that I absolutely did not expect. I have been literally overwhelmed by these new stimuli and I have to admit that I have also met a very cohesive and engaging community. To date, I believe that the world of NFT represents a beautiful opportunity for promoting ones artworks.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I am carrying out some long-term projects, in particular a beautiful series of landscapes wrapped in fog and a series of images on which I am intervening by applying brush strokes of acrylic colors.
I am also waiting for confirmations for a couple of international exhibitions in the second part of 2023, one in France and one in the United States, but I still don't have official confirmation, so I won't anticipate anything else.
In the coming weeks, however, I will open my first World on Foundation dedicated to instant photography. I did a search among the artists who use this vehicle on web3, I selected 16 and I invited them to create an unpublished experimental piece, to be published specifically for this collection. I still don't have the precise date for the release of the project, but except for unexpected events, we will be online at the end of May. This experience of being a curator is truly exciting and there may be new projects of this type in the future.
Perugia based photographer Paolo Della Ciana was born in Citta della Pieve, a small medieval town on the border between Umbria and Tuscany. In the studio of a local painter he shaped his visual taste and 20 years later he began to work with photography. Besides abstract work the female body is one of his favorite subjects. His Polaroid works have been exhibited in several collective exhibitions around Italy and his work has been published in several books.
DRAWLIGHTS | 1/1 – one post/one photographer, weekly. Off-chain and on-chain. By Peter Nitsch, lens-based artist, a member of NFT Now 🌐, Jenny Metaverse and lifetime Member of the Royal Photographic Society of Thailand.