In only 9 years, Elisabeth Ouni has accomplished more than most international media platforms have since their inception. Counting two major exhibitions and interviews with Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky - to name a few - A Polaroid Story shows no inhibition to reach for the stars. In anticipation of 'PUMA invites A Polaroid Story', a special in-store exhibition on Saturday, January 27th, she had a few words to say about the current state of urban culture, how the Benelux market shifted in attitude and what she's got planned for a the 10th anniversary of the platform.
What prompted you to start A Polaroid Story?
At the time, I started experimenting with polaroid photography and fell in love with the format. Especially because of this love for the culture, I wondered whether I could get my idols on polaroid – with the highest obtainable goal being a polaroid with Pharrell Williams. Everyone told me I would never get someone that illusive and high-profile on camera. So, when N.E.R.D performed at the Lokerse Feesten and a few days later my polaroid of Pharrell Williams appeared on Myspace, everyone wondered how I did it. It was due to that achievement that I started documenting everything on Wordpress as A Polaroid Story. What began as a documentation from the perspective of a fan became a more tailored platform, sharpened and perfected as I got to know more about everything happening behind the scenes.
Which brings us to your collaboration
with Puma; where did these paths cross?
Puma has heavily invested in urban culture in the last few years, more than it ever has. This has become apparent from campaigns / collaborations with The Weeknd, the incredible impact of Rihanna’s Fenty collection and even their recent collaboration with Selena Gomez. That’s one of the reasons. Personally, my connection with Puma is through their FAAS sportswear collection. Most of the times when you’ll find me in the gym, that’s what I’m wearing.
An important note: while I got many offers for collaborations as Elisabeth Ouni, it was a bit more difficult for A Polaroid Story, as the platform was heavily focused on urban culture. A lot of brands would say that my target audience wasn’t their priority, especially in the Belgian market. Back then, brands weren’t interested in a multicultural audience of die-hard Kendrick Lamar, Tory Lanez or Anderson.Paak fans. But I’m very content that this is changing, and that PUMA has been a significant part of this change.
And to answer your question: during the event at the Puma Antwerp store, you’ll find never before exhibited works of Young Thug and Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd, who in the past collaborated with PUMA and have a deep connection with the brand.
It’s interesting to see how both hip hop and streetwear culture have repositioned themselves in the recent years, albeit in contrasting directions. While brands like OFF WHITE are sold in stores alongside high-end luxury brands, hip hop has become rawer and more street compared to five years ago. As someone who monitors both cultures closely, what do you think caused this polarisation?
I see it quite differently: in my opinion, hip hop culture has always been raw and street. But it’s evolved from a niche street subculture into a mainstream genre. And with every mainstream movement, this spawns a variety of counter cultures and subcultures that redefine a generation. Important right now is that there’s something for everyone, and streams solidify that hip hop has never been this big. Another change is that within this evolution, previously established platforms like Hypebeast have become less credible – the proof is in the comment section. They’re not aleading voice anymore.
What’s the long-term
vision with A Polaroid Story?
For 8 years I’ve combined A Polaroid Story with a fulltime job, but 2018 will be the first year where APS will become my fulltime job. That way I can commit as much time as I want on capturing artists on Polaroid and adding more context through my interviews, both on a local and international scale. I also started a Patreon account with APS, as it’s still a non-profit platform completely funded by myself. I believe in the philosophy that many soldiers make a big army and hope that people will support the hard work we put into this platform. To support (and see what you get in return), you can support us through this link.
And then there’s 2019, where A Polaroid Story will celebrate its 10th anniversary. I’ll definitely celebrate this milestone with the release of the A Polaroid Story book – a coffee table and tell-all on my experiences as an insider in the industry.
Nightingale invites you to be part of this one time exhibition in collaboration with PUMA, where her works of artists Young Thug, Tory Lanez, Coely and Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd will be show for the first time. Connect with the official Facebook event page for more details.