Dutch filmmaker Willem Baptist interviews Stefanie Schneider for his newest project

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1. Do you have an awareness of nostalgia?

Certainly, as does everybody.

“Basically, we know nothing about how our remembered images in fact look, we believe that we recall pictures and we tell of images which nocturnal dreams implant in our brains, but we would have great difficulty in specifying their actual form. From time to time we consider ourselves to have seen distant pictures, but mostly we think of blurred appearances, more of shadows than of sharp contours.”
(Eugen Blume / Hamburger Bahnhof, “Stranger Than Paradise”, translated by Frederique Tarkis)

I’m making a claim that this is the way we remember and dream. That’s why my work reverberates.

I don’t mind change when the results actually improve conditions but that’s not always the case. Change for change sake or planned obsolescence is environmentally and morally irresponsible. The very word nostalgia is an assumption of obsolete. Nostalgia can be used as a weapon to say that ‘you’re only being nostalgic’ moving the focus to the newest thing, whatever that may be trying to diminish.

Everyone longs for something from their past because it feels good. To remember a feeling of love or just the way it was is a good place to go. Maybe just a dream when thought of or remembered is where you can find peace. My photographs resonate because I’m giving visual to their own dreams and memories. It matters not that they’re even their own dreams because that’s how our brains store them. I just listened and felt, then finally articulated that with expired Polaroid. It was obvious to me.
That’s also why my website is ‘instantdreams’.
2. Are you playing with the temporality of the material and the value of the moment itself?

The value of the moment is paramount for it is that moment that you’re trying to transmogrify.
All material is temporary, it’s relative and time is forever.

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3. What are you provoking in ways of thinking about your stories (and life itself)

I nudge at the truth. Anything can be depicted as beautiful. It depends on what you focus on. I shoot the “American Dream”.

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4. Why do you position yourself in an ambiguous way as both artist and character in your work?

It’s easier. Many stories are based on my life experience. Emotions of my own story-lines are easier to portray on my own.

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5. What artistic value does Polaroid film have?

The same as paint. it’s not different than any other material.

6. what authorship can an artist claim when using such a magical instant product?

All of it.
Every material has it’s purpose and quality. I find 35mm film just as magical as Super-8, digital squares are just the same if the end product works.
Paint, collages, sculpturing,… all is equal in my eyes. It only depends on the artist’s vision. Every technique can be used in the favor of the artist.

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7. Why does analogue film feel more pure and intuitive?

It’s tangible and bright and represents one single moment.

The digital moment may stay in the box (the hard drive / camera / computer etc) forever, never to be touched, put into a photo album, sent in a letter or hung on a wall. Printing makes it an accomplishment.

The analog world is more selective.
Think of the famous war photographers who took photographs which are now images of our collective memory: e.g. the little girl running burned by napalm.

Digital is not selective and doesn’t give you the special moment. The worldwide clicking destroys the moment. The generation without memories due to information over-loads and hard drive failures. Photo albums are a thing of the past.

I doubt we’ll see a digital moment of a collective memory, because nobody can deal with the amount of images around us. The special image, the image to remember is not even be felt or seen anymore.

8. why does this feel so?

That’s how the human instinct works.
When I was a kid, every picture taken was a special moment. Film as well as Super-8 material was an expensive treasure. My parent’s memories were created by choosing certain moments in time. There was an effort behind the picture. The roll of film might wait months inside the camera before it’s all used. From there, the film required developing which took more time and finally when the photos were picked up from the shop, the memories were visited again with the whole family. Who knew then how fleeting these times were. Shared memories as a ritual.

9.  Are these claims true?

As these moments hardly exist anymore i think, yes. But there are always exceptions to the rule.
I have a considerable amount of beautiful childhood memories from the ages 4-7 which are more alive than the moments pictures have been taken of. And I’m certain, these are my memories because no pictures exist. I revisit them all the time. These are memories in bright sunlight and I was completely free. A wild child outside in the summer sun. When you look at the amount of images today, the overload is apparent and the question is, is there even room left for memories not linked to man made images? Are there still rituals in the modern Western society?

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10.  What is your philosophy behind the art of Polaroid pictures?

That the ‘obsolete’ is anything but obsolete. Things are not always as they appear and there are hidden messages. Our memories and our dreams are under-valued. It is there that real learning and understanding begins. Open yourself to different perspectives.

“There are no telegraphs on Tralfamadore. But you’re right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message– describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one”. (Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter-House Five)

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11. Why use a medium from the past?

For me, analog has always been there in the present. For the new generation analog is interesting because it’s new to them.
I understand that people growing up in a digital age will wonder but it’s is theirs to recover if they want. I’ve always worked with Poalroid.
When I first started, it wasn’t the past. it was a partially forgotten medium but it existed nevertheless. It is mine by choice.
There is no substitute for tangible beauty.

12. Is it imperfect?

The imperfect perfection in a wabi-sabi kind of way.

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13. Is it recognizable or even sometimes cliche?

Rocognizable? Absolutely,  even through the impossible mist and the instagram millions. There is surely something cliché about the way I’m showing the American Dream. I’m trying to live it myself, trying to find perfection in an imperfect world. Reaching out for the impossible. The dream is broken, the cliché tumbles. There are different ways to involve or choose an audience. You could make movies like Harmony Korine’s “Gummo”, a masterpiece in my view, which would estrange a large part of the movie watching audience. A certain film education is a prerequisite. You can also start with clichés, the audience then feels safe which lures them into the depth of your world without them even knowing it or understanding where exactly they are being led to. Appealing to emotions and the sub-consciouss. Normal, Change, New Normal.

14. Are you guided by nostalgic thoughts?

I’m guided by my mind. My dreams and my love.

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15. What is the artists role? if part of the magic is in the product and the process?

An artist usually has a project, a goal, a vision. Besides composition and knowing exactly how the film will react (outdated stock) to use it to its perfection, there are ideas, script, structuring, pleasing, shouting, crying, communication, producing, casting, communicating, calming actors, costumes, sets, shooting, scanning, catering, editing, communication, developing, enlarging, exhibiting. Anything I missed?

16. Where can artists claim authorship?

On the bottom right hand corner or on the back….

Take for example Marcel Duchamp and his famous “Fountain” or Banksy and Hirst who commission others to create their works for them.
The production of art is constantly changing.

I’ve been working exclusively with expired Polaroid material for 17 years.
I know this material. My authorship is clear and established.

What Andy Warhol didn’t get to, I did.

17. And how much does the final product really matter, when it is the ‘instantness’ and imperfections that give it its magic?

That depends. Art is everything and nothing at the same time.

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18. Why is a fairly accurate digital reproduction of reality insufficient or less satisfying? /
19. And why does a filtered reality feel more ‘real’ and interesting, while the filtering process at the same time is so recognizable? (We even see this effect using photo-apps like Instagram.)

There is only the here and now everything else is a figment of our imagination.

It is not possible to capture reality. Till today no medium has been invented to capture reality.
Pictures are been taken in b/w, color, digital, analog, all pictures showing a cropped reality. not even the human eye sees reality, the memory filters, different people see colors differently. Some have better or worse vision. Films are being edited. Everything in the media is being represented as the author intended.

There are great “documentaries” and movies. Again it’s all up to the story.

Modern i-phone apps seem to be closer to the memories than regular digital photographs.
I think, the human memory has always felt closer to out of focus, “wrong” colored materials as memory is an emotion.
When i took my first Polaroid it felt exactly as i felt that moment.
But then if you feel the moment and take the picture somehow this emotion seems to be transported when you click the trigger.
I can say that is true for my work.

It would be interesting to review if that would be also true for the millions of instagram pictures. Maybe it is just boring to look through the masses of these pictures colorful or not because most likely they’ve been taken carelessly, without emotions or meanings. We are living in a click away society.
Can you actually find a stranger’s instagram picture involving if it is not a good photo? In other words is the instagram picture automatically a piece of art. I have my doubts.

I believe the power of an image has nothing to do with the technique.

20. Why do Polaroids seem to be so well tuned to our (artistic) senses, perception and minds?

Polaroid material has the most beautiful quality — the colors on one side, but then the magic moment in witnessing the image to appear. The time stands still and the act of watching the image develop can be shared with the people around you. In the fast world of today it’s nice to slow down for a moment. At the same time Polaroid slows time, it also captures a moment which becomes the past so instantly that the decay of time is even more apparent– it gives the image a certain sentimentality or melancholy. Because of that intensity of the moment it seems to change the interaction of the next moment. The Polaroid moment is one of a kind, an original every time.

21 Polaroids eventually fade away how does this impact you as an artist?

My original Polaroids are stored in a dark, cool place and the actual Polaroid picture is only the basis of the process.
First it’s shot, chosen, photographed and enlarged resulting in an analog C-print of various sizes ready for mounting, hanging and finally selling.

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About Lance Waterman

Press & Promotion World traveler, adventurer. Lance Waterman has lived in Canada, Australia, Kenya, Japan, Germany and Thailand. Found the key to dream fulfillment  laid in the setting of wildly fantastic goals and then a simply solitary decision. "I take responsibility for everything that happens to me." Lance has been studying communications since 1991 with the help of his mentor Tony Robbins. Starting in advertising theory, then two local government elections in Byron Bay, Australia culminating with a successful election in 1997. Lance started working in visual communication in 2002 when he first moved to Berlin, Germany. A contemporary fine arts artist's liaison since 2005, developed into the project "29 Palms, CA" where working together with 'mica film" (Caroline Haertel)  produced a theater premiere of a short film "Till death do us part" complimented by a live concert performance at the Babylon theater. Currently working on a documentary of the making of the film "The girl behind the white picket fence" by Stefanie Schneider.
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