Olive Juice is a collaborative photobook from Molly Matalon and Damien Maloney that was published by VUU in 2016. The project started with Maloney and Matalon’s first IRL meeting on a road trip to Niagara Falls. For over three years afterwards, the photographers traveled together on road trips across the American landscape. With an intimate and diary-like quality to the book, the viewer immediately becomes a backseat passenger to Matalon and Maloney’s fast-evolving friendship. Touristic clichés and photographic tropes—kitsch, the snapshot aesthetic, and classic color photography—are idolized and embraced in their simultaneously sincere and satirical depictions along the way.
An SVA graduate, Matalon’s audacious work analyzes femininity, desire, power, and idealization. Maloney’s practice, influenced by editorial and commercial photography, balances the staged with the amateur. The photographer’s practices are conflated in the viewer’s inability to discern the author of certain photographs, and their separate strengths are amplified by this coalescence.
Their connection is supplemented by platonic desire. During the collaboration, they experienced what they referred to as “new relationship excitement” (after Dan Savage) in conversation with Emily Keegin. Desire is manifested through portraits and symbolic references to togetherness and separation as well as love and sadness. The book’s title is reminiscent of the childish game where, by mouthing “olive juice,” it looks like one is saying “I love you.”
In an interview with Paper Magazine, Matalon described her approach to self-portraiture as a way to have control over her own representation and “to position [herself] in the world according to femininity.” Maloney’s work, which often emphasizes gender ambiguity and fluidity, has also confronted representational norms. Olive Juice is a study in how desires to both see and be seen are extensions of individual agency.