juxtaposes places of daily life with the infrastructure of industrial production. If you live near a factory or refinery, you hear it, you smell it, you know that it can hurt you but you accept it because either you have no choice, or it is your best choice. Either your grandfather built the house when he immigrated from Mexico or this neighborhood is actually better than any other you can afford. You are resigned to the dangers clouding your future. It is familiar. It is your neighborhood.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report last fall stating that the global temperature will rise 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052, causing calamitous worldwide damage. The need to reduce CO2 emissions is on a direct collision course with an expanding oil and gas industry, driven by increased hydraulic fracturing.
Resignation is to watch the smoke rise from a coal plant, a refinery, or a factory as it floats over the neighborhood where you grew up, raise your children, and grow old. Our grandfathers built this house, we all live here. There is no where else to go. We are resigned to whatever the future brings. We grieve for troubles to come and also for what we have lost. There is now a term for this form of emotional distress, it is: solastalgia
Robin Michals is a photographer whose work explores the specificity of place. She examines the developed environment, or what Jedediah Britton-Purdy writing recently in The New York Times
has called the “technological exoskeleton for the species.” Since 2010, she has been developing Castles Made of Sand
, a series about the communities in New York City impacted by sea level rise. More recently, she has been looking specifically at resignation in the face of climate change in the series Our Neighborhood
, shot in residential communities near industrial sites across the United States.
Robin’s work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Historical Society, St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan, the Alice Austen House on Staten Island, the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, and the Davis Orton Gallery, among other venues. In 2018, she was the photographer-in-residence for Works on Water and Underwater New York on Governors Island in New York City. She was a visiting artist at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2015.
In 2009, Michals photographed over fifty sites in the borough with legacy pollution for the series Toxic City: Brooklyn’s Brownfields, which was exhibited at the Brooklyn Lyceum with support from the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Puffin Foundation.
She teaches photography at New York City College of Technology and lives in Brooklyn.