September 1 2014

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Iekeliene Wants The World To Look Like A Polaroid


Iekeliene Stange’s finely sculpted features—which we think evoke the lines of Modigliani or Erté—have the kind of unique beauty that’s often dubbed “intellectual.” Opening today at Berlin’s Projekt Galerie, her new photography show called I Like Ponies, a collection of playfully surreal Polaroid images, is proof that the description isn’t merely skin deep. While some fashion- friendly fields are a natural transition for models who want move past posing, Stange is interested in presenting work with a set of allusions that go beyond the industry and her own distinctive beauty. After years of snapping pics backstage (including for, Stange’s first show marks her graceful transition from muse to artist. Let’s hope that Impossible b.v., the Netherlands-based company that’s resuscitating Polaroids for fans worldwide, churns out lots of film for her to shoot. Here, Stange talks to about her secret stash of film, Dutch nursery rhymes, and the state of fashion photography.

Why are you drawn to Polaroids?

There is something quite chaotic about the way Polaroids develop, the way they appear and their flaws. I think their irregularities, along with the dreamy colors and tones, sums up the way I’d like the world to really look.

Do you associate the soft surrealism of your images with childhood and play, or are there heavier symbols under the surface?

Definitely [the first]. I think it’s good to stay with a playful mind. I want this to reflect in my images, and hopefully inspire people to a lighter approach of seeing things.

Is there anything quintessentially Dutch about your work?

Yes, it’s slightly inspired by Dutch nursery rhymes.

Is there a rhyme that inspired the image of the girl with the stack of hats on her head puffing on the pipe?

Actually this image is inspired by my good friend and artist Victor de Bie. At the moment we are collaborating on a small show together that will take place in London in April. [If you look] at his paintings, you will see a big connection between his work and my images.

Have you been particularly influenced by any of the photographers you’ve worked for on the other side of the camera?

I always try and keep an eye out to see what they do technically. It’s always good to see photographers that know what they’re doing. Otherwise fashion photography is not really the direction I want to go into.

What distinguishes fashion photography from art for you, besides being in a gallery versus an editorial context?

I think these days fashion photography is very restricted and lacks a lot of creativity. There’s always certain items that need to be shot in certain ways and you don’t have as much freedom. Very often these days it seems to be more about socializing and who knows who, rather than about actual photography.

What qualities do you look for in the people you decide to shoot?

I always look for interesting characters—people that I think are original and inspiring. I have quite a few shooting ideas planned out in my head at the moment, I just need to be able to find the time to idealize them.

How did you start modeling?

I got scouted when I was still studying in Holland in art school. I was very surprised they asked me for such a thing. I had no idea what it was all about, being a little punk with red dreadlocks and my arms covered in toothbrush bracelets. After much consideration I decided to try it out to make some money, but it turned out to take up a lot more of my time in the end.

Do see yourself as part of a tradition of models moving into photography, from Lee Miller to Helena Christensen?

No. First, I don’t think there’s any such tradition apart from maybe a natural progression from one side of the camera to another. However, for me photography has always been of great interest. This is probably the direction I would have gone in regardless of modeling.

Do you think that models have a particular set of potentially problematic issues when they start out on other careers?

Yes. The judgments are always ready to be made, while actually modeling is just something that came up in between for me. I have always had my interest in photography. Modeling is just a good way to build up some financial stability.

Now that Polaroids have been discontinued, do you have a stash of precious film or are you running low?

Yes, I have a fridge full of them, actually. I did hear that now another company has picked up the production. We will have to see what happens. It would be great news!

Photo: Iekeliene Stange