The return of the tactile photo token

We have been closely watching the creative scene in Eastern Europe at Achtung and dedicated an entire issue to the movement with our Spring 2020 issue called Go East. One of the most buzzing capitals in the East is Warsaw with designers, models and photographers making a name for themselves on a global stage. Even Polish Vogue is talked about at the moment. Add to this creative scene a new wave of entrepreneurs led by Oskar Smolokowski the CEO of Polaroid. Yes, Polaroid the photo company which has a special place in the hearts of fashion photographers, designers and stylists as their instant photo went from useful tool to its own photographic genre in no time. Everyone from Helmut Newton to Guy Bourdin has published a book showcasing their Polaroids which originally were photos taken to check lighting and staging.

But let’s talk about Polaroid CEO Oskar Smolokowski. At just 31, the former CEO and recent Chairman of the Executive Board actually belongs to the generation of digital natives. The young man is also the son of Polish billionaire Wiaczeslaw Smolokowski, a former musician who got rich in the oil business and who is now the main owner of the Polaroid company. In 2001 the company founded by the great visionary Edwin Land in 1937 faced bankruptcy for the first time. Seven years later, to the horror of many, production was finally stopped. But then the Austrian Florian Kaps started the almost impossible with a few colleagues. A documentary film about Polaroid called The Impossible Project was released, which depicts the undertaking of rescuing the company, especially the European factory in Enschede, Netherlands. In 2010, after laborious reconstruction and the search for new suppliers with more environmentally friendly chemicals, the first, highly complex films were produced again. Smolokowski fell in love with the tactile magic of the medium while encountering the project in Manhattan and got on board as intern. Smolokowski actually studied engineering at the time and then moved to fine arts. For five years he learnt everything about the history, the process, the cameras and finally took over product management.

Recently, Polaroid launched the first new camera model in over twenty years: the Polaroid Go. Smaller camera, smaller frame – the films are almost 60 percent smaller than the size of a classic Polaroid 600. This also makes them more affordable, the startetur set with a camera and two films is available from around 140 Euros. The Go in a trendy design, with double exposure and self-timer, is primarily intended to inspire a younger target group for an analog product. Retro-chic and nostalgia have been in trend for years, for example vinyl sales are increasing again. As a result of the pandemic, this development and the longing for real things have increased again. “We have received an enormous number of inquiries, especially in the last few months,” says Smolokowski. People no longer only want to use photo apps like Instagram, they want the real thing. The sound, the smell, the feel – ultimately also the old meaning of photos. “I am attracted to something that can happen outside your phone screen,” says the 31-year-old. And with the pocket size Go camera he has created a credible option for a generation who finds space for a mobile everywhere. We used the new Go to capture actress Lilith Stangenberg when she came to our office for meetings to discuss our new print issue and at the same time shot the covers of our first and most recent Achtung issue with it.

Oskar Smolokowski the CEO of Polaroid