For 12 months, the Norwegian photographer Anja Niemi worked solely with a 1970s Polaroid Press camera to study visions of commercialised feminine beauty and crime from the 1950s. Her new UK exhibition and photobook are about to launch in London.
In an effort to work on something “time consuming and slow,” Niemi produced around 500 Polaroids – the now obsolete photo-stock after Fujifilm has announced the end of production of the last peel-apart film.
From those images, Niemi edited down and created eight short stories containing fictional characters, objects, landscapes and interiors, “all in some way connected to each other.”
Each story is inspired by photographs of pre-owned objects. Rhinestone lashes, a police booking sheet with fingerprints, a Russian gun holster and six 1940s dolls with loose limbs – each lead to a separate character, a chapter in a private collection of tragicomic tales.
Niemi started the series by photographing the contents of a Beauty Counselor suitcase from the 1950s, creating from these objects the character of Darlene the Beauty Counselor. The case, filled with beauty samples from 1959, was the start of creating characters and stories based on such objects.
Niemi also photographed a bank deposit bag with the caption: “This bag should be returned to UNION BANK”, leading her to create a story about the unlawful character named Mona.
Niemi’s character Susan includes photographs of surgical instruments, a frozen lake, a set of acrylic teeth and a portrait of an ice skater.
Born in Norway in 1976, Anja Niemi studied at London College of Printing and Parsons School of Design in Paris and New York. She is now considered one of the most compelling modern artists working today.
Short Stories by Anja Niemi will premiere at Photo London from 19-22 May and then go on show at The Little Black Gallery from 26 May – 16 June. A book of the same name will be published by Jane & Jeremy.