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Photo essay: People engaging with the economic collapse

Robyn Hasty Jun 9, 2011
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Tess Vigeland: The Great Recession spawned an entire cottage industry of books, movies, even songs. All trying to figure out how it happened, why it happened, who’s responsible.

For Brooklyn-based artist Robyn Hasty, the most interesting question is what happens after crisis — how people change the way they live. For the past seven months, Hasty has been crisscrossing the country, taking images for a photo series she calls Homeland. Her photo technique goes back 150 years. It’s called wet plate. At her recent stop in Los Angeles, we caught up with her to learn more about the project.


Robyn Hasty: It is a cross-country photo essay about people that are engaging with the economic collapse, engaging with systems that are failing.

I feel like certain cities embody this very well and that’s one of the interests for doing it across the country. Austin — the people I photographed there, Boggy Creek Farm is the name of the place. I was interested in them because they’ve been doing urban organic farming for about 25 years and they’re an older generation of people. So they reflect a side of this that goes beyond the most recent economic collapse — that there is a long history of cycles of collapse and renewal.

I’ve been doing art for my entire life. I had this moment where I was like, where am I going with my art and my development? And I took a workshop on wet plate and I was like, oh I know exactly what I would do with this process.

Wet plate is a photographic process that was invented in 1851. It is a chemical process. Basically you are making an emulsion on either metal or glass and the detail is incredible. So much sharper than anything a 35 millimeter could produce.

I did one loop from New York to New Orleans, through Austin, Dallas, Little Rock, Ark., Ashville.

Yesterday I shot in Venice. If you actually sit out there with the guys that are out playing bongos for money, you realize that functioning or not, the economic world is affecting everybody. And I guess the will of the individual, even in certain circumstances that are very extreme, to still have this energetic, active, creative energy — so that was really important.

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