The global award in photography and sustainability

Mary Mattingly

I begin my work by doing research, drawing sketches, and building workable sculptures with utility and survival purposes in mind. The sculptures are realisations of this research, and are for use in the photography that I am creating. In 2001, I started building Wearable Homes and would travel to different desert environments, to experiment living in them for weeks at a time, bringing along little food or water. As I improve the Wearable Homes, I have added systems to them that purify and store water, provide a place to sleep, monitor the wearer’s temperature, health, and provide floatation and storage for belongings. After a period of continuous moving, I wanted to make the wearable homes technologically advanced and fit for the world’s increasing number of mobile citizens. My work is largely narrative and illustrative of future conditions that large populations can and may face.

In the two series Second Nature and Time Has Fallen Asleep people are largely mobile in these self-contained clothing units as they travel through each of the prevailing climates of the near future: arctic, desert, and waterlogged tundra, illustrating different modes of survival. For these two series, I travelled to places that were and are in danger of drought, in need of water, or that have an excess of water due to melting glaciers or storms. I was able to experience hardships from lack of water and difficulties that communities face from changing climates first hand, to study floodgates and rising tides, and at times I was fortunate enough to be able to help in relief efforts. With the inclusion of sculptures, the images that I make border fiction and reality. Depending on the particular image and the sentiment that I want to evoke in the viewer, I use 3-D imaging programs and digital editing programs to create or alter initial photographs so that they may tell a story and suggest a feeling that borders between a warning and hope.

Mary Mattingly