Featured in Vignette issue 5 Homeland is a huge achievement for the young Robyn Hasty: A crowd sourced, wet plate, road trip of America.
Homeland documents how some Americans have gone ‘off grid’ to combat the economic crisis, from community projects to ‘grow your own’ Hasty documents those fighting back.We asked Hasty a few questions about the project , unfortunately we didn’t have room in the magazine for her full answers, so as promised here they are.
Vignette: Do you see crowd funding as the future of arts based projects?
Robyn Hasty: I think the success of programs like Kickstarter is both empowering and a little bit bleak for the future of arts funding. It’s empowering because it gives people a DIY channel to fund projects that might be difficult to fund using more formalized channels. In the US the grant system is a very unreliable source of money: it’s incredibly competitive, it can require up to a year of pre-planning and preparation, the sums can be comparatively small, and in the end the proposal may not even be successful. Crowd Funding skirts around all that, and allows individuals to directly support projects they like with affordable donations. However, I don’t think crowd funding should replace institutional funding for art. That’s the part that seems bleak to me. Kickstarter depends on artists producing sellable objects as rewards. It’s a very effective business model for how to fund independent projects. But if you get a grant you are given money unconditionally to make new work, and that’s the incredible thing about grants that makes them so worthwhile. Preserving the dynamic of supporting art without expectation of reward seems vital to the existence of art.
Vignette: How is the Homeland project progressing at the moment? Are you onto the book stage?
Robyn Hasty: I’d say the core of the project is done, but I am still traveling, shooting and adding to the collection. A lot of people have mentioned they’d like to see it as book, and I’m starting to look into that.
Vignette: What is it about the ‘American Road Trip’ that captivates people from all around the world?
Robyn Hasty: I think to get to the root of that question you have to think about the symbolism of the automobile in our society as freedom. In our culture, the individual goes out on a journey of discovery across a vast amount of space, alone in the car, to carve a niche for himself in the world. It’s individualism. It’s capitalism. It’s a journey of self-actualization for a rootless generation, a coming of age narrative. It’s a journey for people who have no tie to tradition, who are supposed to build a life for themselves from scratch. I think that the feeling of discovery is supported by the fact that America is vast, and much of the country is sparsely inhabited. There is history there, but we have displaced so much of our history that, to us, we feel that it is new and ours to discover. I think these factors combine to create a feeling of possibility that is distinctly American, and that appears recurrently in the novels, movies, photographs we make about ourselves.
Vignette Magazine: If you look at world wetplate day as a gauge of how people use the medium , most preoccupied with making images look old and death . Why do you think the medium has these associations? Why do so few people tackle modern issues and subject matter? Even Sally Mann probably the most famous wet plate photographer photographs dead bodies…
Robyn Hasty: I think most people approach wet-plate with a lot of attachments to its history. They have seen what Victorian period wet plates look like and attach the history of the process to the medium itself as if they were inseparable. I think some of the preoccupation with death comes from nostalgia for a bygone age. The process is considered obsolete, and that gives people an opportunity to dwell on the tragedy of things passing, and triggers a compulsion to revive what has been lost. It’s possible that this leap is a lot easier for photographers to make– Susan Sontag has a fairly harsh assessment of photography inherently attempting to freeze the passage of time in film. But, perhaps in a naive way, I don’t think the process is obsolete, or dead. It’s no longer a commercially viable means of photography, which means it has been freed from industry to be used for purely formal reasons—because of its material beauty, its nuances, its tone, its sharpness, its imperfections. And I think that attitude has allowed me to approach modern subjects with a fresh eye and perspective.
To see more of Robyn’s work www.robynhasty.org