"I love double exposures, long exposures and lightpainting because you can do pretty much whatever you want. The possibilities are endless."
Utilizing polaroid as more of a tool rather than an end product, photographer Hanna Varela’s polaroid photography is both understatedly whacky, fun and totally random.
What is your background in photography?
I don’t have a formal education in photography or art, but I’ve always been interested in both. My first film photos always came out either dark or fuzzy because I didn’t know the basics! So I tried to teach myself by reading stuff online and learning from my friends. I still mess up sometimes but I’ve definitely come a long way since then!
How did you get into photography?
It was 2009 when I started shooting film. I saw this photo in a magazine and then I found out it was taken with a film camera. The funny thing is I can’t even recall exactly what the photo was. It was like a sunset or something. I’m not sure. All I remember was what I felt when I first saw it. I was in awe of how beautiful it was. From that moment on, I was determined to learn how. My first cameras were a baby Holga 110 and a Lomography Diana F+.
I’ve been shooting polaroids on and off since my boyfriend, Felix, gave me a polaroid spectra a few years back but I wasn’t really that passionate about it then. In January 2020 he gave me a polaroid one step + as a Christmas present but I only started really messing around with it in mid April when the Phase 1 of the Covid 19 circuit breaker began in Singapore. That was the period when my job as a nurse became quite stressful. Besides going to work, we had to spend most of our time indoors and there weren’t a lot of options that would relieve the pressure of working in healthcare at a time of a pandemic. Social interactions were limited and we couldn’t travel. There was nowhere to go. I turned to my cameras and since I don't process my own film and shops were closed, I picked up the polaroid camera and started shooting portraits at home.
Polaroid’s approach is instant photography - but you seem to take your time with it. Using the “instant” part more as a tool and canvas rather than a result. I notice you like to play around with double exposures, long exposures etc and each shot seems to be more carefully crafted rather than “instant”. Why then use polaroid film?
I like to take images of objects and people as they are but more often than not I like to put my own twist to it. Before I press the shutter, sometimes I give myself a moment to close my eyes and let my imagination take flight. I see things upside down, splashed in different colors or with streaks and flashes of light. I love double exposures, long exposures and lightpainting because you can do pretty much whatever you want. The possibilities are endless. Most of my photos require a certain extent of planning because I use 2-3 sources of light and I just shoot by myself at home most of the time.
I've always been drawn towards working with film. However, instant photography was the most convenient way to shoot during the lockdown and get results immediately. Since then, I grew a passion for Polaroids and I decided to stick with it as my medium.