ABOVE: RAINE MANLEY ROBERTSON AT MISS LILY’S VARIETY. PHOTO BY THEA GOLDBERG
You know that moldy grape you just tossed into the garbage? Raine Manley Robertson would like you to sit up and take just a few seconds to look at it—really look at it. The 22-year-old photographer, whose first exhibition will be unveiled at Miss Lily’s Variety today, spends a lot of time looking at overlooked things, whether it’s last week’s orange, marked with slowly expanding green rot; a fingerprint-stained coffee table book; or cracks crawling down a wall. “There are a lot of moments of beauty and poetry in unexpected places in the world,” she explains.
Jamaican-born and now Brooklyn-based, Roberston took a leap of faith moving to New York in 2008 to attend the Pratt Institute. Already, her powerfully minimal photographs are scattered throughout Tumblr’s dashboards, passed daily from one design blog to the next; a small mark of triumph for an unknown artist whose images capture the otherwise unassuming and emphatically ephemeral. Her debut exhibition, Thank You & Come Again, on display until July 12, is a two-part show—where colorful nude self-portraits (Thank You) sit next to photographs that capture the “unintentional poetry” one might find on common, discarded receipts (Come Again). “One looks at the classically beautiful nude female figure, the other is a different take on beauty; finding it in something unexpected. I love pairing the wildly colorful with the incredibly minimal.”
AGE: I am 22 and was born on Halloween.
HOMETOWN: I’m from Kingston, Jamaica. It is my favorite place on the planet. Jamaica is so amazing, partially because we are a small nation with a massive, global reach; music, dance, food, and fashion—we kill it in everything we touch. Kingston is very dear to me; it is filled with everyone I love. I go back a few times a year and am hoping to come home as much as possible. I miss my family insanely; we’re very close and it’s very hard to be so far away. I have two younger brothers, so it’s important to me to be present as much as I can be.
WHEN SHE’S NOT TAKING PICTURES: I work at Milk Studios. I have been there for just over a year and have learned a lot, made some amazing connections and have seen some pretty cool things along the way. It is a whirlwind!
DEBUT EXHIBITION: It is very exciting! After four years of very hard work [at Pratt], the exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to show two very different bodies of work to a world outside of the university. I hope viewers will find some beauty and poetry, and some humor, in the images. And Miss Lily’s is a fantastic place, not only for the ties to Jamaica, but also for its totally unique cultural position. It is a melting pot of great food, music and collaboration—from the work they exhibit to the pop-up shops to the non-stop radio jams.
THE NUDE SELF-PORTRAITS: I have always been interested in making pieces that could appear to be timeless. Clothing is a very simple way of dating a photograph.
THE RECEIPTS: The project was born from a growing pile of receipts and a very tired post-thesis mind. My thesis work, Atrophy, was my first real exploration of things that people don’t normally pay very much attention to; I photographed a lot of broken and decaying objects. The receipts are a continuation of focusing on disregarded objects. They are also a departure because they are not photography in the traditional sense; an image is recorded but not with a camera. The receipts came from my own purchases or from friends and a few were found. Where they come from isn’t the most important part—I am most interested in the fact that receipts by their nature are generic. They could come from anywhere!
GOALS ON THE HORIZON: I am really enjoying getting to know New York outside of being a student and I would love to keep that going. I do some commissioned photography and want to keep building up clients. A few short-term goals are to take a lot of pictures on my upcoming road trip to New Orleans in the summer, to make a conscious effort to carve out more time for personal projects this year, as I am very busy at work and to successfully transform my bedroom in Brooklyn into a workable, albeit small, still-life studio space.
THANK YOU & COME AGAIN IS ON VIEW TODAY THROUGH JULY 12 AT MISS LILY’S VARIETY, NEW YORK. FOR MORE ON RAINE MANLEY ROBERTSON, PLEASE VISIT HER WEBSITE.