Polaroid's "L'Habitat" Paris Exhibition Photos

001 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
Photo talent from across the globe converged at Galerie Bête in Paris to show off their all-Polaroid portrayals of world-class cities. We checked the opening and asked the artists how they exposed their hometowns the ol’ fashion way. Stop by if you're in the zone.

Interviews by Anthony Pappalardo
Photos by Ted Schmitz and Schoen Johaness

003 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportFirst, a pristine view of Paris's Arrow & Beast before the crowds arrive 

005 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportGalerie Bête lies just below the Beast

006 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportAny exhibition worth its weight in ink will have a hearty curator card

007 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportFinal touches at the buzzer

008 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportFirst 50 in the door got somethin' special

009 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportIt's time. Let's check in with the artists to see what their projects were all about

Polaroid Headers Alex Papke 1 2000

Polaroid Paris Pullquotes Alex Papke Every Spot In Los Angeles 2000

I feel like everything in my career has been a happy accident. I moved here in hopes of getting a job at the Skateboard Mag, but the day I landed in San Diego I learned of their acquisition by the berrics and knew it was a wrap. Then on the fifth day of living here, I snapped my ankle on a ten-stair and was stuck on a couch for two months, moving to Long Beach shortly after on a whim. So many people live over-calculated lives but I did the opposite and fully winged it. I just wanted to shoot photos and was lucky to meet the right people at the right time.

010 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportPapke and Raisa Abal from Dolores Mag

011 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportHe knows everyone in this media landscape. Seen here with Closer's Jaime Owens

There’s a misconception that every spot in Los Angeles is perfect, but when you try to shoot photos here it’s one of the hardest cities to skate. Everything is so spread out, you’re always driving and finding new things but it feels overwhelming to capture it all photographically in a way that hasn't been done before.

013 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
One of my favorite images I captured was a statue of Guadalupe outside of my apartment. I shot it a few times, using different light exposures until I got something I was really happy with. When I showed it to my girlfriend she was like, "That’s amazing. Where is that?" and I had to tell her, “Two hundred feet from where we sleep.”

014 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportLouie Lopez in LA

Whether it’s shooting portraits, spots or random things in my neighborhood, the cool thing about shooting this city is opening up new perspectives to your surroundings. You get a different feeling than you would with a traditional photo, and it's very different seeing a physical image appear five minutes after you shot it rather than looking at it on a screen. You are never too sure of what you're going to get, making it that much better.

015 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportStefan Janoski aboard his signature float
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Polaroid Headers Nobuo Iseki 2000

Polaroid Paris Pullquotes NOBUO ISEKI 2000

In Japan, skateboarding isn’t mainstream. I want to show everyone the culture of Japanese skateboarding in my photos, so that makes the background as important as the tricks themselves. I’ve felt that way since I first started taking photographs.

016 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportHeavy grid from Tokyo's most dedicated

In Tokyo, the police and security are very serious. Skating is hard here—it’s quick and kind of serious. Shooting during the daytime is difficult because you only have a few tries before you’re kicked out of a spot. You don’t even have time to test your flashes. It’s hard for the skaters themselves because they have to choose tricks they know they can land, but that sense of danger created the whole Eastern style of skating.

018 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
Sometimes we’ll try to hit “forbidden spots” like museums or big office buildings on New Year’s Day when there’s no security or go out at 3 AM to shoot a photo, but even then, you only have a few tries before you’re kicked out. After Yuto dropped that part filmed entirely in Tokyo at night, everyone started hitting me up to shoot photos super late at night. I told the younger skaters that I’m getting too old for those midnight missions.

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I wanted to use each Polaroid image to tell a part of the story of skateboarding in Tokyo. Whether it was a sign, a spot or somewhere we eat and party, I wanted the individual images to combine to show a journey more than single tricks.

017 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
The other side of the Olympics coming to Tokyo is that I’m seeing a lot more girls skating and progressing quickly. It felt like all of a sudden there were so many girls coming up in Japan after The Games. They’re not only going out in the streets, but they’ll send me photos and videos to get my opinion. When I was younger, you’d only see guys hanging out at the convenience store after a session; now you’ll see a bunch of girls hanging out, playing SKATE, drinking beers. They’re not only progressing with their tricks, but the community is growing. You can tell that skateboarding isn’t a sport to them.

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Polaroid Headers Cristian Bravo 2000

Polaroid Paris Pullquotes Chris Bravo Barcelona You See 2000

I don't usually take pictures of tricks. My idea with this project was to document the friends I grew up skating with here that I've seen grow. We’re not necessarily skating all the time, so I wanted to show what it’s like around this group of people but make the images feel like Barcelona.

020 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportMore than just MACBA, Cris brings a vision of the well-covered skate mecca

Barcelona is a skateboarding destination. I was born here, so I see people coming and going. For example, it’s why a lot of locals won’t go to MACBA. It feels like a competition—everyone’s going there to shine. For me, that's not Barcelona. That's why I just want to document my friends and my vision with my friends about our city. In a way, everyone’s an outsider here.

021 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportAustyn Gillette joined his Rassvet homies at the opening

The biggest change in skateboarding over the last 15 years is that there are more skateparks that nobody skates, so the old spots are just getting more fucked up. There’s so much to explore, though. The Barcelona you see in videos isn’t my Barcelona. People flood the city to skate those legendary spots but it can also breed a bit of laziness because things are so laid back. You can easily end up at the same six spots. It can be a trap. There’s this idea that Barcelona is a perfect skateboarding heaven, but in a lot of ways it’s not that easy. Sometimes you struggle with figuring out where to go because it’s too hot, there are too many tourists or you’re just tired of skating the same areas.

022 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
The city is known for its artistic architecture. It’s true that we have artsy buildings and plazas, but repetition is everywhere if you look for it. The city has become much more minimalist over the past ten years—modernism is disappearing. Things are becoming uniform. We’re erasing the character of the city by making it “nicer.” It’s hard to find architecture that feels like Barcelona anymore.

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Polaroid Headers Magda 2000

Polaroid Paris Magdalena We Were So Young Pullquotes 2000

I just remember one day my best friend's older sister had a painting of herself. I asked her about it, and she said she made the painting by first taking a picture of herself. I thought it was fascinating and thought, I could probably learn a little bit about myself if I took pictures of myself and my surroundings.

024 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportTonight wouldn't be possible without the work of Magda and Polaroid's Anna

Photography fell into my lap when I was 14. It gave me a reason to belong in a place where I didn't feel like I belonged. There weren’t many women or girls in the scene in the ‘90s, so if I went out with a camera it was a step to acceptance.

026 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportOriginal photos from her newly-minted book entitled Fulfill the Dream

When I look at them now, photographs I took in my teens were impulsive and full of raw feelings. We categorize them later as being “good” or “artistic,” which is funny because it’s all just a reflection of emotion.

025 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
My Polaroids were usually shot at nighttime or during a party, whereas skate photos are in the daytime. The Polaroid camera has such a good flash option, so it lends itself to capturing those intimate moments. It was almost a guarantee that you’d end up with something special.

027 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
Photography early on was an icebreaker for me and gave me a reason to be there. If you’re a girl back then, you aren’t normally hanging out at street spots in Central Arizona in 110-degree weather while someone tries a trick for an hour unless you have a reason to be there. Whether I was shooting photos or just going around to learn the spots so I could bring people there when they came in from out of town, I felt like I had to “fake” my way to being accepted in skateboarding. I think if I was a young, aspiring male photographer at that time, I think it'd be a lot different.

gallery lhabitat schoenjohannes low 21 2000
Making this book was very cathartic. I cried a lot when I first started scanning my negatives four or five years ago. What a time and what a journey. We were so young and didn't give a fuck. We weren't distracted by the Internet and people. But also, why did I have so many hardships? Why did I have to prove myself so hard? Why did I have to fight so hard? Maybe I didn't have to. I had this sense of empathy for the little version of me. It was a really big emotional process but it was nice to have it finished and bound because when I closed the book, I closed a certain chapter of my life. It’s no longer mine to carry, so any pain that comes along with it, it's now for the world to see and relate to and I can move on to the next thing.

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I have zero regrets about all the things I've done through the way I grew up in the culture. The one thing I wish I never did was smoke cigarettes. Besides that, no regrets. It was all supposed to happen. Struggle builds character.

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Polaroid Headers Yann Garin 2000
Polaroid Paris Pullquotes Yann Garin 2000

Using the Polaroid camera was a lesson in relearning when to shoot. I discovered the double exposure and that was the lightbulb moment for me. I wanted to capture the six most famous spots in Paris by only showing the ground and then used the second exposure to add images that showed my style.

028 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportFree views of Paris, courtesy of the artist

I wanted to show empty spots so you could see the flow of skateboarding. Now that the Olympics are starting everything is changing. You need a QR code just to skate Le Dome.

029 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
The older generations tend to stay in the big plazas, for sure. The younger kids are looking for the magic. They’re only sessioning a spot for 30 minutes then they’re on the move. Along with the metro, one of the best things about Paris is being able to ride everywhere by bike. Everyone has a bike.

031 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
I think the Blobbys brought a lot of attention around Europe and the US, but not so much in Paris. People were critical of them because they were skating differently. But what I do think is that it showed the power and the fun of crews—getting together with your friends to session was a bigger inspiration than the videos themselves.

030 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportMadars was in town and stopped by. Solid endorsement

I’m not sure why, historically, there haven’t been many skateboard companies from Paris. It’s expensive to get boards made, but I think a lot of skaters just want to ride for a company and do their thing without getting into the industry side of skateboarding. They’re waiting for a paycheck and a budget.

035 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportIf you've ever wanted to see one above sea level, now's your chance

It’s a new era. It’s crazy. We’ll see what happens but for me, I think they’ll—The Olympics—will forget skateboarding. Paris has changed so much in the past ten years. The city center is safer and better for skateboarding, but once you go to the suburbs it can be pretty fucked up and dangerous. —Yann Garin

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Polaroid Headers Sirus F Gahan 2000

Polaroid Pullquote Sirus F Gahan Pullqoute Everyones Poor 2000

Everyone’s poor and everyone’s going insane in their rooms. That’s what I wanted to show. That’s skateboarding in London, mostly. The city of London doesn’t understand the cultural nuances of skateboarding. When the city was going to destroy Southbank to put in some fucking cafes or whatever, they were like, No, it’s cool! We’ll build you a skatepark. Don’t worry! We don't want a skatepark. We want Southbank. We made it into what it is and it's more than just somewhere to skate.

036 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportSirus's wall gets up close and personal with his subjects

Skaters probably wouldn't want to admit this, but I think Southbank is a safe space. Skaters are as self-conscious as anyone else. There's literally a fence around Southbank, so once you're inside that's your space and you kind of feel safe to do whatever you want. Also, there's nowhere else in Central London that you can go and just actually skate around, like, on flat. London is missing the plazas that most European cities have. It's also a psychological thing—people don't want to skate things that are made to skate. The mental part of being a skater is that you need to feel like you're interpreting architecture.

037 Polaroid LHabitat Paris Export
I wanted to mirror the mood of skaters in the city, in that no one skates street. One of the pillars of the project was to show the architecture and I thought it would be a nice interpretation to show the inside of the buildings that skaters live in. Where you live molds who you are as a person. I thought it would be more interesting to show people’s character instead of spots. It’s kind of a magnifying glass on skaters’ worlds.

038 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportGod bless printed media

There is something about the pushback from the city in terms of everything–funding spaces for youth, and allowing people to do anything. You can’t do shit here because everything is privately owned. There’s no space. That ignites something in you to be like, Fuck that. I’m going to push back and do my own thing. That’s how subcultures and youth movements happened in the past. But now, no one has time or money to do any of the things that they want to do or to push back against the city that's trying to stop us from doing those things. There are definitely zones where people live. You either live in South London or East London. There are levels to it, and it’s kind of mirrored in how successful or prevalent you are in the scene. If you live fucking way far out, you're not around as much. So much of skateboarding is about just being there and being involved.

019 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportLondon's Helena Long paired the art with an Orangina. The citrus compliments the work surprisingly well

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Let's see a few more notable humans before we leave this hallowed space.

032 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportWe got the Pfan Man and company

033 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportMaité too

034 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportAnd out from Japan, Daiki Hoshino caught a few glimpses of his home country

039 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportSolid message for our times

040 Polaroid LHabitat Paris ExportAnd it was all over too soon. But you've still got time. The show ends this weekend, so check it as a warmup to the Louvre or somethin'
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