With grunge and graffiti taking off around the globe, it's no secret that skater-chic is infiltrating the mainstream. But skateboarding subculture has existed for long before this latest uptick in popularity. L'Habitat, a partnership between Polaroid and community photographers, gives us a first-hand view of skater culture. The brand notes that although our world favours the efficient and the conformist, “the most interesting events are rooted in subversion.” Skaters are notoriously society’s misfits, and the exhibit, running through July 6th at Paris’ Galerie Bête, shows us how a small group of oddballs (re)shaped mammoth metropolitan cities like Barcelona, Tokyo, Paris, London, and LA.
The photos aren’t necessarily focused on the ostentatious flips and spins in public parks; just looking at the publicity posters should tell you that much. Each one features a Polaroid, that immediately recognizable rectangular photo surrounded with a thick white border. They show ‘no skating’ signs in Japanese, a woman embracing her skateboard, and even a skater chilling on a cross-shaped pool float. These set the tone for the rest of the exhibit, where we can find the snapshots of photographers and skaters like Alex Papke, Nobuo Iseki, Cris Bravo, Magdalena Wosinska, Azusa Adachi, Yann Garin, or Marius Chanut.
Stand-out images include a chopped up and pieced back together portrait of a skater, a visual representation of changeability and versatility. Another shows skaters lounging on the round border of Paris’ Place de la République, a direct juxtaposition of the underground and the world-renowned. Still another takes us to an empty skate park, its benches and curves lifeless and grey without people to jump and slide on them.
There’s no doubt that L'Habitat focuses on skater culture and all that it brings to each city in which it is ingrained. If you're not a skater, though, don’t worry. At its core, the exhibit highlights the power of weirdos, and reminds us that what we find off-putting or incomprehensible today may well be the biggest trend of tomorrow. We're encouraged to never arbitrarily accept what's presented to us as fact, and to find a community that embraces our unorthodox way of thinking. L'Habitat encapsulates what it truly means to be a skater: rejecting and challenging convention.
Alex Papke
Nobuo Iseki
Nobuo Iseki
Azusa Adachi
Margaux Saingolet
Marius Chanut
Yann Garin
Yann Garin