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Mariah Robertson Wears a Yellow Suit to Work

June 27, 2011

How does an artist make work in extreme circumstances? In this film, artist Mariah Robertson wears a makeshift hazmat suit, face mask, and breathing apparatus to create a series of hand-processed color photographs in her darkroom in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Navigating both a toxic process and discontinued materials, Robertson’s ability to perfect her technique is a race against time, dwindling resources, and her ability to endure difficult conditions.

The artist’s unorthodox, photo-based projects often employ multiple techniques in a single image: enlarging negatives, employing filters, crafting hand-made patterns of colored gels, and placing objects—such as agate, hoses, and glass—directly on the paper. In addition, Robertson achieves one-of-a-kind results by developing each photo in an artisinal fashion by spraying chemicals and by controlling reactions with variable temperatures and the strength of her materials. In the end, Roberton’s tragicomic images poke fun at a traditional photography culture while exploring the slow obsolescence of analog processes in a digital era.

More information and credits

Credits

Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: Clair Popkin. Additional Camera: Wesley Miller. Sound: Nicholas Lindner. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Paulina V. Ahlstrom, Don Edler & Maren Miller. Design: Open. Artwork: Mariah Robertson. Thanks: Matthew Dipple & Museum 52.

An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2011. All rights reserved.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Licensing

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Mariah Robertson

Mariah Robertson was born in 1975 in Indianapolis, Indiana, grew up in Sacramento, California, and lives and works in New York. A photographer often working without a camera, Robertson creates images through ceaseless darkroom experimentation. Without knowing exactly what outcomes her hand-applied color chemicals will cause, she balances this lack of control with her mastery of the material. Her willingness to push the boundaries of photography allows her a freedom not often found within the field.