Stefanie Schneider (born 1968 in Cuxhaven, Germany) is a German photographer living in Berlin and Los Angeles. After studying photography at the Folkwang School in Essen, Germany, Stefanie Schneider moved to Los Angeles, where she purchased three boxes of old Polaroid film on Sunset Boulevard in 1996. First equipped with a Polaroid Captiva and later with a Polaroid SX-70, her work since then has been characterized not only by the typical square Polaroid format, but also by an almost surreal colorfulness. Schneider consciously plays with chance, using expired Polaroid instant films that often produce chemical mutations, sometimes throwing the pictures into sand to create a certain surface effect. In the final step, Schneider produces analog copies of the composition in the photo lab. As she herself puts it, “The ‘imperfections’ in the expired films show the way we remember things and the way we dream.”
However, it is not only technology and perfected chance through which Stefanie Schneider creates surreal Polaroid photographs that deal with the dreams, hopes, and unreality of American culture. The photographs, almost all taken in California, look like stills from a road movie, showing palm trees against cyan blue skies, 1950s billboards, lonely gas stations, and in between, young figures lost in reverie.
Unlike the chemical substances that produce the faded color gradients, for example, Stefanie Schneider leaves nothing to chance when it comes to the motifs. The costumes and scenery of the whimsical, imaginative productions are worked out down to the last detail. The colorful representations of normality can be perceived subliminally as threatening and menacing. Film director Marc Foster used photographs of Schneider in his thriller Stay (2005).
Celebrated for many years as the “shooting star” of photo art, Schneider has long since established herself internationally. Her photographs have appeared in books and exhibition catalogs and her feature film 29 Palms, CA (2014), and also adorned the covers of records by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cyndi Lauper.
It was also Stefanie Schneider who inspired Vienna-born Florian Kaps to set up The Impossible Project to save the instant camera from extinction. The Impossible Project took over the Polaroid film factory in Enschede after the Polaroid company declared bankruptcy in 2008. Schneider worked with The Impossible Project for many years, testing its films while the team worked to improve the process. In return, The Impossible Project – now named Polaroid Originals – supported her artistic activities.
Stefanie Schneider. Instantdreams
Editors Christoph Bamberg, Stefanie Harig, Marc A. Ullrich
Essay by Heidi Korf
Stefanie Schneider. 29 PALMS, CA
Pocket Polaroid Series #004
SCHWARZERFREITAG, Berlin 2007
Stefanie Schneider. Stranger than Paradise
Edited by Noëlle Stahel, Daniela Bosshardt and Dominique A. Faix
Essay by Eugen Blume, Marc Forster and Mark Gisbourne
Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2006
Stefanie Schneider. Wastelands
Editor Thomas Schirmböck, ZEPHYR
Essays written by James Scarborough, Megan Mullally, Mark Gisbourne, Renée Chabria
Edition Braus, Heidelberg 2006