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Chad Kula manipulates Polaroids to and creates delicate, painterly images

Chad Kula's Polaroid transfers are things of fragile beauty. One misstep and the image can be torn or damaged and ruined. He likes this aspect of the process and thrives on the accidents and the unknown.

Chad's process is deceptively simple and is as follows:

"To create these, I heat up water in a skillet and cook the Polaroid. Slowly the black backing comes off. Then with a small paint brush, I push the emulsion off the clear plastic front. Then floating in the water, all that is left is the thin emulsion. I sink a piece of watercolor paper and play with it until I have the image the way I want it."

Chad is on instagram as @portlandinpolaroid

ALTER/ANALOG: What got you interested in instant film?

I grew up with polaroids.  When I was younger, I asked for a Minolta Spectra Pro for my birthday.  I shot so many Polaroids with that camera.  It had a bunch of great features, but I loved how well it shot in low light conditions.  I was into instant film then, for the same reasons I am now;  there is something wonderful about watching a picture develop.  Maybe even more so now, in a digital world.  There is a great feeling of uniqueness and intent that I think gets lost with digital.  You can capture a moment, and then actually hold the evidence.  Plus, cameras and films “see” things differently.  I’ve always been drawn to Polaroids.  They tend to be a little flatter, softer focus, and still maintain great tones and colors.

ALTER/ANALOG: How did you learn about polaroid transfers?

I have vague memories of a kit that was sold by Polaroid to make transfers.  I never owned it, but I remember reading the booklet that came with it.  I am pretty sure that the first one I did was in 1998.  It’s a neon pharmacy sign that says drugs, and is posted on my Instagram account.  Not sure why I stopped playing with the process, but it wasn’t until 2 years ago that I started making them again.  Every time I make one, there is a little rush. Because there is a chance that I may destroy a picture that I like.  There is a great reward in that risk, I almost always love the final piece. 


ALTER/ANALOG: What attracts you to analog?

The physicality of it.  There is a process that you are involved in.  Particularly when you start getting into manipulation.  When you start using developers to alter film grain, scratching the negative, using dyes, film soups, or emulsion lifts, there is no Command Z.  There is a feeling of control and involvement because you are doing it, but that has to be paired with acceptance.  Because, you don’t know until you try.  The constant reminder that there is beauty in accidents and the unknown.

ALTER/ANALOG: Do you do any other processes with instant film?

Not currently.  I’d like to make some collages with emulsion lifts. Years ago I made a pinhole camera and shot with Polaroid Type 55 film.  It would be fun to make another pinhole camera and see what I can get out of that.  I am playing with some ideas, but they are definitely still in the conceptual stage…

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