Andrew Millar’s practice involves experimenting with the possibilities of Polaroid analogue instant film. Using a combination of found vintage imagery, Polaroid film, gold and silver leaf, and paint, he creates delicately detailed collage pieces. These surreal images capture a haunting mix of fantasy and reality, and are a celebration of female strength and individuality.
Hi Andrew, tell us where did your interest in photography and instant film start?
My grandfather had a darkroom and lots of old film cameras, which I was very interested in from a young age, and he would show me how to develop film.
And what about your education, did you go to university?
I studied fine art and film photography, then I went on to complete one year of fine art at Northampton University, then left as I found I was more productive experimenting and teaching myself.
How has your work evolved since then?
I have always experimented with ideas, materials and techniques so my work constantly changes. I’m obsessed with Instant film as a medium because it constantly delivers different results and there are many manual manipulation techniques that can be applied, so it never gets dull.
When did you start combining instant film with other materials?
As a teenager I used an original Polaroid SX70 camera and started to play with some photos I took in New York, adding spray paint, text and collage. I would also take a lot of self-portraits, which I would slightly destroy by scratching with a compass & burning.
Tell us about your fascinating and complex process
I use a combination of instant film, gold & silver leaf and paint to create delicately detailed collage pieces. This can include ripping the film apart to produce a transparency or by lifting the exposed image off the backing in warm water and overlaying. The size varies from one single Polaroid to over a 100 pieced together. Sometimes the manipulated Polaroid is then transformed into an individual hand finished screen print so it’s a lengthy process!
You live in East London, how does your environment inspire you?
I’m a big fan of Gilbert & George, I see them quite often in the street and they always say hello, which gives me the best feeling! Being in an environment where people appreciate art and music in such a big way really makes me feel at ease.
Tell us about your subject matter, who are the women you portray?
I was brought up in a solely female environment. With no male figures to look up to a lot my inspiration naturally comes from women. I have always admired original cinema stars as they had such striking faces. Nowadays everyone looks so similar, as if there has been a loss of individuality. They are all a celebration of strength and individuality.
What do you like about working small scale?
At first it was about restricted space creating a collage that fits within that square of the Polaroid. Also I think that something as small as a Polaroid should have the same detail and impact as a large piece.
How do you think your images translate when they moved into the medium of screen print? How does the increase in scale affect them?
My Polaroid work has a graphic quality that translates well on to screen, giving the whole process a new interesting layer. I’m really happy that I’m able to take something so small with intricate detail and transform it into a really striking version that’s 36 times the original size.
What or who are your greatest inspirations?
Music is my biggest inspiration for everything I create.
You had your first UK solo show this year, how has this developed you as an artist?
It’s brought forward a lot more opportunities to showcase my work as it’s opened up to a whole new audience.
Do you have any ambition or ideas in regards to your work in the future?
My ambition is to keep being able to do what I love for as long as possible.