For Polaroid Stories, Naomi Iizuka draws from two disparate sources: interviews with homeless youth and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The resulting marriage is as much about the interplay between documentary and mythic modes of storytelling as it is the stories retold.
From Metamorphoses, Iizuka borrows power. Classical mythology is an established, elevated medium, and it lends the stories of street youth the grandiosity they deserve. Her text starts, however, from the recognition that hers is an impossible hope: no grand imagery or high art will rescue homeless youth from their reality. She titles Polaroid Stories after a medium that’s quick, dirty, and cheap. The flattened, grainy snapshot reduces its subject; where elevated media, say an oil-on-canvas portrait, would empower, the polaroid disempowers. But polaroids are among the low media underprivileged persons might actually be able to access -- or have thrust upon them by outsider documentarians. That is, if their stories find any media at all.
Her title, for us, poses both a problem and the very reason Polaroid Stories begs to be remounted right now: polaroids don’t mean what they did in 1997. Polaroids are now not so much documentation as affectation, and the finger on the shutter wears a tiny mustache tattoo. The hipster appropriation of polaroids is, however, a cosmetic symptom of a much larger and more exciting phenomenon: low media are gaining altitude. Money and status are becoming increasingly irrelevant to a good story’s right to be heard -- and as a young, low-budget company, that’s a fight we feel.
Polaroid Stories is about the dichotomy between high and low media, but we’re at a moment in time when that barrier is breaking. Producing Polaroid Stories, we risk naively self-aggrandizing as saviors giving voice to the voiceless. We’re not about that. We are about the potential open media access offers for everyone to have their own goddamn voice. Low media, self-published media, social media, new media -- they are staging a mutiny. Welcome aboard.
- Molly FitzMaurice