Thomas Mailaender

1979, born in Marseille, France
Nominee - Prix Elysée 2021

Known for his use of a wide range of mediums including ceramic, cyanotype, photography and collage Thomas Mailaender often incorporates found imagery and objects into his works, updating obsolete photo processes as a kind of Jack of all trades, and archaeologist of present times. Through his collecting and curatorial practice, he has been gathering an important collection – ‘The Fun Archaeology’ – whose documents highlight the very absurdity carried by its subjects, the vernacular richness of their language and their accidental poetry.


Life and adventures of a silver woman on planet Earth.

« I’ve been gray since I was about 15 years old. As of this writing, I’m 72. When I was nine years old, a doctor gave me nose drops for a recurring nasal condition. They contained silver. In medical terms, my condition is called “Argyria.” »

Thomas Mailaender discovered Rosemary Jacobs who herself suffers from this rare condition through her memoir she wrote and published as a kindle available on Amazon. At the time, he was researching the proper method to silver-plate a random object, and he accidentally stumbled upon her website. After exchanging for months via email, she finally invited him to come to New Hampshire where she lives in a remote small town called Jefferson (incidentally where the first ever documented UFO sighting happened on the 19th of September 1961).

Rosemary was poisoned with Silver Nitrate, a highly photo-sensible substance that is important in a great number of photographic processes. Her body has been somehow photo-sensitized with this chemical and her face exposed to the sun, has turned to a silver gray. Her relation to photography is very special and has a strong resonance with Thomas Mailaender interest in this medium. All along her life, she used photography to document the progression of her Argyria (moments which she calls « control photography »).

Rosemary has led the life of an activist. She is fighting to ban Silver Nitrate products that continue to be sold by the naturopathic industry. This body of work is for her another way to amplify her message. Given total access, Thomas Mailaender reproduced her archive and began documenting her in photographic sessions.

« I was once called green, although most people describe me as gray or blue. I’ve often thought that, if an elephant, horse, dog or cat were blue, it would be considered rare, exotic, and extremely valuable, but with humans the opposite is true. In the old days, people with argyria were considered freaks. Some, like the “Blue Man” in the Barnum & Bailey Circus, who had a very serious case of Argyria, made their living as sideshow freaks. Being gray has had its advantages and disadvantages. »

Were she a super-hero, she could be Photograhy Woman.