‘It’s just a simple fact: today, our most treasured memories are taken and stored on our phones,’ says Polaroid BV’s CEO Oskar Smołokowski. ‘But what we’re missing here is the emotional, physical connection to the images we take.’

Smołokowski is recovering from the flu, he explains apologetically by phone link from the Amsterdam HQ. You can’t tell. There’s a vibrancy to his narrative that suggests a bright future for the Dutch camera company, which, too, is coming out of its own illness of sorts. At the dawn of the new millennium, the company fell behind its competitors with new technology dazzling the eyes of the curious consumer – digital cameras, iPods and mobile phones were the new priority. It closed its doors in 2008.

Detail view of Polaroid Lab digital to analogue photo printer

The 30-year-old CEO of Impossible Project (the quirkily-named company founded to revive production of Polaroid film four years ago), took the realms of Polaroid Corporation, as a whole, in 2017. Polaroid reopened, and its new leader seemed set on turning up the volume on conversations surrounding digital, video, and AR, bridging the gap between evolving technologies and the company’s esteemed history.

A new phone-to-physical launch, Polaroid Lab (available from October 2019), is the company’s first head-on answer to the digital question. The three-lens developing system functions as a miniature table top darkroom, using the unique Polaroid chemistry to transform smartphone snaps into classic Polaroid film photos. ‘Unlimited cloud storage can actually be your memories’ worst enemy, causing your digital photos to skyrocket in numbers and end up falling into a void of oblivion,’ says Smołokowski. ‘The idea behind the Polaroid Lab is that it turns your most precious smartphone images into tangible Polaroid photographs – bringing them into the world as something you can hold in your hand and store on the fridge door rather than in the cloud.’

Polaroid camera closs up

Similar products have existed, but this one’s better, Smołokowski assures us. And he’s convinced it will be a success. ‘It’s not just digital photography that has exploded since the millennium,’ he explains. ‘In an era when everyone’s a photographer, instant photography’s popularity has grown too.’

The gung-ho CEO also hopes that the device will attract digital photography natives, influencing the happy-snapper who takes 5000 images a week to shift the way they interact with photography, gently nudging them to make careful editing decisions. ‘I love that you have to physically turn the phone upside down when you place it on the printer,’ he explains. ‘You have to make a considered choice, picking your favourite image to print.’ The Polaroid Originals app offers further editing flexibility, allowing experimentation with image collages and new augmented reality features.

With all this newness and experimentation, creating a familiar product design was important. The industrial design of the Polaroid Lab stays true to the original brand’s ethos; which was influenced by Dieter Rams. ‘People recognise a Polaroid product the world over, so we’ve been careful to stay true to these principles of simple, honest design – while adding a sense of playfulness that fits in the digital realm.’ §