Mariah Tyler is a Brooklyn-based photographer. Originally from Dallas, Mariah studied Cultural Anthropology and Photography at the University of North Texas. In 2014, Mariah was awarded the Clare Hart DeGolyer Memorial Fund grant from the Dallas Museum of Art, followed by an Editorial Work Scholarship with Aperture Foundation in New York City. Her work investigates the ideas of intersectional identity within hip hop culture and the everyday of American streets. A professional fly-on-the-wall who unapologetically enjoys small talk about the weather, Mariah is a conceptually-minded image maker, cultural scribe and a part-time screenshot-grabber for hire. From 9 - 5, Mariah works at Travel+Leisure as an online photo editor.
DR: Mariah, tell me alittle about the things you like to photograph.
MT: If I had to answer this with one word it would be, people. I’m consistently drawn to how people interact with the spaces they occupy. I am naturally an observer of any situation it just makes it more interesting when I have a camera on hand to snap these moments where something is a little awkward, out of place, or humorous.
DR: How would you describe your Hip-Hop series based in Dallas, TX?
MT: The Dallas hip hop series is a body of work from a two year period where I was constantly going to shows, hanging with friends who were making music or creating parties for people to perform. Towards the end, it became apparent that my photographs could be used to communicate what hip hop was becoming in so many parts of the country. Hip hop became attainable again to many young people and we had the tools to make it happen for ourselves. Many existing visual narratives of local hip hop and rap exist throughout the music and culture’s history and these photographs of Dallas hip hop is my contribution to that national story.
DR: You recently self-published the series. Tell me about your book, 214EVER. Was it a lengthy process to put together?
MT: 214EVER is the hip hop series in final form, it is a selection of the photographs I took between 2012 and 2014 that collectively tell the story of what was happening at the time in Dallas. It’s accompanied with quotes from people in the community that offer insight beyond images. As a creator and consumer, I’m very interested in zines and photobooks that turn images to objects. When I moved to New York, I knew this was what I needed to do with any and all spare time. It did take awhile but the experience I had at Aperture Foundation was invaluable and helped me shape the book into what it is today. The whole process took two years; this includes many edits of sequencing, designing the layout and cover, transcribing interviews I did back in school with the artists to selecting quotes and finding the perfect voice for the introduction (Rodney Blu). That’s all before the Kickstarter which is a project in and of itself.
DR: What are some of your favorite images from the book? Why?
MT: It’s safe to say all the images in the book are my favorite for some reason or another but there are a few that are a little more sentimental to me.
This photograph is still and yet unquiet. These boys at the pinnacle of the party are aware of me, but in their own world. That’s really definitive of my approach to shooting. The dramatic light also gives me hope that this is something Caravaggio would have painted.
On this day, I was hired to shoot some potential album covers for my friend Tawaine Hall (an artist and producer from Fort Worth). Throughout the project of this book there are few times I was photographing in the daylight. So with the combination of light and getting to follow Tawaine around his childhood neighborhood, I was seeing new perspectives on how my images could go beyond nightlife environments.
Last but not least, my favorite portrait. This night at the Dallas Museum of Art was the first time any hip hop artists had every performed. To have A.Dd+ perform in front of Dallas in a museum setting was brilliant! I saw a very white, very ‘art institution’ audience dance and get involved with their performance. It was phenomenal. It bucked perceptions and so that after the show I had to grab a portrait of Slim; shirtless in a durag with a money print. It worked out even more with him standing in front of a Robert Rauschenberg piece; an artist known for his unconventional approach. The photo gods blessed me with this one.
DR: Do you have any future projects you are working on or will work on?
MT: There are a couple of projects I’ve been slowly working on. Maybe that’s my pace. Things were on hold until I put 214EVER out. I’ve been shooting in New York and want continue doing more street work. I will definitely spit out a few zines or printed items from various smaller series that I’ve shot. Just stay tuned!