Julie Loen is a photographer who lives in Norway and works with small and large format instant photography, as well as wet and dry-plate techniques. Her obsession with an old-fashioned, Wild West aesthetic comes through in her images, which tend to take on a narrative quality. Hazy colors, bold shapes, and inventive scenes point to her talents as both a visual artist and storyteller: she’s also the author of three novels. Her newest photobook, Polafornia, documents her travels in through the Sunshine State with her friend and model Ingvild Eiring.
“I bought a One Shot 600 and my first pack of film in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2013 I truly became a Polaroid addict. That’s when my good friend and model Ingvild Eiring and I did the first of what would be many shoots for our book, All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton, a western-themed photo essay shot entirely on Impossible 600 film. It took two years before we were satisfied with the images. By the end of those two years, we had shot at several different locations and captured all the seasons, from sunny July to snowy February. That was pretty much my Polaroid apprenticeship.
Shooting Polaroids can seem like an easy fix, but it’s often challenging. Learning to love the imperfections in my own work was probably the biggest challenge. It was a bit of a process to let go of control after years of shooting digital, but through shooting I also gained back some control as I learned the quirks of the camera and the film.
When Ingvild and I decided to go to California in 2015 the only question was how much film to bring. On our week-long trip, I shot 189 Polaroid pictures. I used 96 of them in our travel journal/art book Polafornia. We travelled in a loop from San Francisco, via Sacramento to Yosemite, and back to San Francisco again. We visited Alcatraz, encountered a family of skunks by Folsom Lake, dealt with an allergy attack after cuddling a rabbit in Sacramento, fell in love with an abandoned trailer home in El Portal, rode horses in Yosemite, rafted down the Merced River, discovered the original “bollefjoms” (a great blue heron) at the Palace of Fine Arts, and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog.
I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing pastel colors, but I can’t get enough of the pastel-hued world of Polaroids. It’s impossible to produce the same results in Photoshop and that’s another thing I love: the small, and sometimes big, surprises you get when the image surfaces – warped colors, chemical shenanigans, fuzzy focus and what-have-you. They look more like how I remember the places I’ve been to than the crisp images of a digital camera. For me, that makes the Polaroid camera the perfect traveling companion.
I have several new photo projects in the works, including a new trip with Ingvild – wherever we go, the One Shot will come with us.”