Snap happy Elisabeth Ouni’s Polaroid tales

We caught up with photographer, digital media consultant, and whopper-tune aficionado Elisabeth Ouni at the opening of her first exhibition, A Polaroid Story.

How did you decide which images made it into the exhibition?

A lot of tough decisions needed to be made in the coordination of the exhibition. As there was no sponsor, the show is a complete love project, making everything very limited budget-wise. I decided to keep the exhibition very tight (only 21 or 22 pieces) by putting together a series of portraits that I was 100% happy with. I made one huge blow-up of Pharrell Williams, I think it’s something like one-metre-and-a-half by one metre 80cm. He’s a very important figure for me as he was the first Polaroid I took.

The Polaroid is a very evocative form. How did you get into it?

I bought a Polaroid camera for €1 in 2009, the last year that they brought out film. I experimented with it, taking pictures of friends and a series of kites. The blog is always a bit of a struggle. To take a Polaroid you need an intimate moment. It’s not made for moving objects, or else it gets blurry. It’s difficult getting artists alone and then to sit still. It takes three to four minutes to stand for a Polaroid. When an artist passes by you need to have a prepared pitch to grab their attention. That’s the skill: grabbing their attention without being too pushy. As well as two different poses, I have to get an exhibit, so, someone else taking a picture of me taking the Polaroid. It all has to happen very quickly. I always prepare what I’m going to say. Some photographers have all the right elements; an appointment, a stylist, and the right lighting, but I have to work with what’s given to me, which often isn’t much. I try to premeditate what I think the artist might think is fun. There’s a certain vibe you need to transcend. My blog is about that A to Z experience. A real fan loves that. My vocabulary can often be a bit limited, because I try to tell it how it is, and so it’s not high-brow, it’s for everybody. I just tell stories. I don’t want dirt, I just want to tell my readers what happened and how it was possible or how it failed. The Polaroid is, for me, the proof of a moment that I have with an artist. And that’s golden.

Do you see yourself as an artist?

I see myself as a creative content producer. My day job is as a digital media consultant, creating content for brands in fashion and music. The blog is my first digital project that came out really big. I see it as an expression of pop culture and of different moments I’ve had, rather than ‘art’. And, of course, a lot of hard work. The blog gets bigger and richer because of the number of artists it features. Though I don’t control light or make HD images, I do think the concept is original. I haven’t seen it done in this type of way. The journey is what makes it interesting. I’m just a storyteller who’s good at creating original content. The blog has helped me get lots of other jobs – people now ask me about creating other collections because they like my Polaroids and stories.

Were you more of a perfectionist when it came to the exhibition?

I’m a huge perfectionist, making the blog quite difficult. For the exhibition I had control over the environment so I decided to keep it very clean and not too busy. I have lots of content – lots of Polaroids and stuff I’ve been collecting – but I couldn’t display the Polaroids without glass and framing, and having them all there would have made the space too busy. I decided to have a display table for the little Polaroids, so that they’re still there.

What’s next?

Depending on whether other countries are interested, I’m working towards a much bigger project – perhaps doing a mini road-tour of London, Paris, and Berlin. I want to get a broader audience and take the blog to a more international level. I want to do it Tim Burton-style – put together all my video material, all the Polaroids, all the exhibits. I’ve been thinking of getting a guest curator to do each exhibition in each city.

Until 27th October
A&Gallery, Schepenhuisstraat 17 – 9000 Ghent