The Culturator: Serene//Supreme and the Analog Spectrum
by Juleana Enright
In 2009, when the Polaroid Corporation announced they would stop selling their film — two years after they stopped making their cameras – the nation was bewildered. Yes, the age of digital cameras was upon us and yes, they captured a similar concept – instantaneous memories – but not in the same evocative, kinetic way. Anxiously awaiting a Polaroid image to manifest was like awaiting our own destiny, like archiving an untamed memorandum. Nothing was certain; everything a cliffhanger.
We refused to accept a world void of Polaroid, and so it was that on January 5, 2010, Polaroid partnered with the all-powerful pop royalty Lady Gaga, appointing her as “Creative Director” for the company and the “new face” of Polaroid. A new generation of instant film emerged led by the analog-embracing project Impossible. In an age where anyone can imitate the Polaroid spectrum by way of Instragram and fly-by-night filters, the words of Marvin and Tammi ring true – “ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.” In her latest photo project, Serene Enloe attempts to produce a permanent record of a transient scene.
Author Dimitrios Vellis from the Impossible Gallery, courtesy The Impossible Project
l’étoile: Your current Polaroid photo project introduces us to an eclectic mix of locals, both on a anthropological and visual level. How did the project come about?
Enloe: This project focuses on local (and soon more national) creatives and their work. The anthropological piece investigates who they are as people and what they create. I enjoy the social aspect of inviting the subject over and getting to know them through the question and answer portion of the photo set, face to face. I started taking instant film portraits in 2010. It came to a point where I had thousands of portraits and decided to embark on an instant photo portrait project. Using a collaborative model allows me to create and to introduce the interviewees’ current work to others.
l’étoile: At first glance, the Polaroid series could seem as just an excuse to take pictures of “pretty scenesters,” but upon further review one will notice that the roster includes quite a heavy assemblage of local doers and creatives. How do you choose your models?
Enloe: I am interested in photographing interesting people who are creating and collaborating with others on some artistic level. Let’s face it, Minneapolis is full of many talented people: musicians, producers, DJs, models, stylists, writers, photographers, designers, visual and graphic artists. The people presented so far, just happen to also be good looking. I met most of the people featured on Serene//Supreme after moving to Minneapolis 5 years ago. For 7 years, I worked and was a full-time student, earning my bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and my Masters in ESL Education. Unfortunately, I had little time for creativity outside of my studies and almost no time for friends and socializing, even though both are in my nature. I knew that in order to finish my degrees, that I had to push forward and get it done will all of my focus. When I finished my studies, I moved to Minneapolis and had time to meet new people. I was quickly was drawn to creative and artistic people, many of whom are featured in this project.
l’étoile: Are you the stylist or do you let the models choose their wardrobe?
Enloe: I have not styled any of the people who have been featured. I ask the models to bring five outfits, of their choice, so that there is variation in the portraits. Each session takes about an hour and a half. The models come over, we usually have a chat and a coffee. I ask them questions and either write down their responses or go through the questions with them and allow them to complete the questionnaire themselves. Then we begin taking photos. I usually take three photos of each of their looks. I then allow the models to choose their favorite photos and take out any that don’t agree with them. It is truly a collaborative effort.
l’étoile: Living in the digital age, it seems surprising to work with disposable cameras. Why do you prefer this medium to experiment with?
Enloe: I love film. I have been taking photos of friends and my travels since I was eight years old. My mother would develop a roll of film for me each week and then put a new roll in my hot little hand. As a child, I loved disposable cameras. I later inherited my father’s Nikon EM, that he used throughout our years in Japan and our travels throughout the world. I have used point and shoot digital cameras for short periods of my life, mostly for the convenience of their portability. I quickly realized, that to me, there’s nothing like film, whether that be that a disposable camera, film camera, or my Fuji Instax camera. I love the look and the softness of the portraits that instant film creates.
l’étoile: Over the years, you’ve compiled quite the portrait collection taken at various parties and events around MPLS. Tell us about the mélange.
Enloe: I am focused on my career and dedicated to projects during the work week which doesn’t allow for much time for socializing. Therefore, over the years, I have become known for bringing people together, often at my house during weekends and my summer vacation. I enjoy being around all of the people that I love at once. I host a dinner party, BBQ or get togethers almost every week. This has become an optimal time for me to take portraits, since so many people are in once place at one point in time. Over the past three years, I have taken thousands of instant film portraits. Most of the shots are taken at my home or at the QXCollective*. I am involved directly with the QXC and the art shows, parties and events that they create.
l’étoile: Any plans to showcase your collection as part of an exhibit?
Enloe: In the future, I would love to showcase the series done for Serene//Supreme. It would be fun to show the thousands of portraits ‘from the vaults’ someday as well. I am a firm believer in doing things at the ‘right time.’ When the time is ‘right,’ it will happen.
l’étoile: You’ve shot for local artists and done images for press releases and for a parties in MPLS and beyond. We hear you’re taking your polaroid “booth” to Milwaukee later this month for Video Villain’s 1 Year Party What has been some of your favorite collaborations?
Enloe: Within the past 3 months, many projects have arisen. I will be shooting the Video Villain’s party in Milwaukee on April 20th which features many artist and DJs, along with Minneapolis artists: WAK LYF and rapper Chris Hooks. This is more of a “fun project” that I wanted to be part of. I have also taken photos for MC Longshot’s new album cover, which will be released shortly. Most recently I have been working with Minneapolis man, Jake Heinitz and Greenroom Magazine, a coffee-table quarterly, set to debut in June. If focuses on independent musicians, street fashion, and urban architecture/conscious living, with a photography focus. Greenroom will have a heavy emphasis on Minneapolis and Chicago with a mix of select international artists. I will have a spread in each issue. The first issue will include photos from Serene//Supreme and later will include more national artists that swing through Minneapolis.
l’étoile: Why do you think “Polaroid photo bombs” are garnering more popularity recently than the more traditional photo booth?
Enloe: They’re quick, easy, portable and produce great photos.
l’étoile: Anyone in town you’re dying to do a photo sesh with?
Enloe: I am excited to work with Greenroom Magazine and take photos with artists I may not have ever had the chance to meet otherwise. On a local level, I am interested in photographing, interviewing and meeting people I don’t know personally. Minneapolis is full of interesting and wonderful people who are creating all the time. I want to be a part of getting their work out there and introducing them to others through photos and their Q & A. Word of mouth is powerful and I look forward to continuing the project.
For more on art collective QXC, check out The Culturator’s recent article with co-founder, Ken Hannigan HERE
Want more Culturator? Check out archives HERE.
Follow Juleana Enright on Twitter @juleanaenright.