Exposure: Yael Malka

Identity and community are at the heart of Yael Malka’s photography work, which explores life in New York via both personal and editorial projects

Two varieties of nostalgia merge in Yael Malka’s zine, Five Years of Found Notes, from 2019. The imagery – which depicts a small sample from her collection of found paper gathered from the streets of New York – offers an irreverent yet intimate portrait of life told through the remnants people leave behind.

For the last eight years, Malka’s impulse to collect has seen her amass hundreds of scraps of paper, including strangers’ shopping lists, to-do lists, letters between friends and lovers, homework assignments and children’s drawings. Together these gestures, which may initially appear casual and throwaway, reveal much about who we are and how we spend our time.

Malka, who has lived in New York City her entire life apart from a short stint in Israel, thinks about her obsession with collecting as a way to “hold onto certain parts of a city in flux”. What fascinates the photographer about found objects is how they manifest as sculptural readymades authored by strangers who co-habit the city with her. “I’m interested in the granular,” Malka tells me from her studio in Brooklyn. “Collecting detritus – recontextualising the found material that fades into the background – offers a fascinating portrait of a time and place.”

Top: Personal work; Above: The Views