A Combination Of Polaroids And Passion Have Created Something Quite Spectacular

Out of focus, over-exposed, dream-like and nightmarish – New Zealand photographer, Katoanga Finau’s, black and white portraits are other-worldly. As if the camera accidentally captured figures from the liminal – as they shift from hardly visible to starkly in focus. Katoanga’s use of light and aperture create a series which seems timeless, eerie and yet, silently beautiful.


It is a reel of humanity – from figures, barely visible but for an eye through the darkness, to defiant models looking purposefully into the camera. The photos range from pained and candid to posed and precise and yet there is always room left for interpretation. Katoanga blurs his subjects, the seem to be as anonymous as their background, strung together as part of a fast-paced montage depicting the human spirit and perhaps, how little we know of it.


Mesmerising in their detail and even more so in their uncertain nature, the self-taught photographer uses polaroid film to create a series that is both stunted and seamless.

The Plus: What is it you love about polaroid film?
Katoanga Finau:
Polaroid film is a rare creative medium where each image you shoot will be unpredictable, unique and raw. It has an old, nostalgic, soulful nature about it that digital cannot compare to, that’s what I love. You can create a picture instantly, it develops in minutes and it’s already in your hands. The camera I use is a Polaroid SX70 Camera and Polaroid film from the Impossible Project.  


TP: What are the main emotions you wanted to portray in this collection?
My work comes from a spiritual perspective so it communicates spiritual messages that I want people to connect with. I like to portray the ethereal, the graceful the soulful the divine the beautiful, the feelings of transcendence, illumination and capturing the essence of the soul, they are just some of the emotional qualities I associate with my work.

Light is a huge emotional part of my work. There is a mystery of light that connects to the unknown and it is symbolic of a positive, peaceful type of energy, it’s something you can’t touch but can only feel.

I like to paint my subjects in this kind of light, resulting in all my subjects to be of a similar character. The way I create imagery of people in a consistent manner creates a unity and awareness that we are all connected to each other.


TP: What is it about the human form that you most love?
: I interpret it as a sacred place because it is where our souls live but it is also flesh and blood that is subject to decay. I like to emphasize the human form almost like it’s a glorified sculptural figure.

TP: Why black and white?
Black and white relates to an old period of time. Black and white is simple yet effective enough to emphasizes the emotional meanings of its colour.


TP: Where did you shoot the photographs and over how long?
I shoot all my work at the studio here in New Zealand with artificial lighting but also with natural light.

TP: Are the images in the series pre-planned or is there an air of spontaneity in your work?
Sometimes I plan before hand and sometimes I don’t. There’s a freedom where I work intuitively and let the process flow naturally. The best work comes out when I don’t plan anything at all and just let my intuition do its job.


TP: How much control did you assert over the models/lighting etc?
I direct, guide the situation and I set boundaries but it is all good control. It’s a simple portrait sitting when I am taking a portrait of someone. I try to make the model feel relaxed and I direct them, it’s a very simple, comfortable, long and slow process. I usually know how I want my lighting to feel. It’s one of the important parts of shooting is making sure the lighting reads right.


TP: What’s next for you?
I have a lot more projects planned for the future and I would also like to experiment with large format, which I have not tried before.


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