By Dakota Parks for Pensacola Magazine
Robert Malmberg has spent the bulk of his life with his eyes behind a camera, capturing the world around him and establishing himself as an award-winning portraiture, still life and landscape photographer. At the young age of 18, he discovered his passion for photography when he bought a 35-millimeter camera to take on a six month trip to New Zealand to document his travels. When he came back from that trip, Malmberg enrolled in Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara to study commercial photography before starting his career in New York. In 2008, he opened Malmberg Studio in the bustling warehouse district along East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he worked as a commercial photographer, taught himself the 1850s-era wet-plate collodion process and began selling limited- edition prints to interior designers. Faced with closing his studio for six months during the onset of the pandemic, Malmberg and his wife made the decision to relocate to his birthplace in Pensacola, where he reopened his studio and launched his luxury and boutique wallpaper line.
The Malmberg Wallpaper in Spring 2021 collection is an 11-piece collection that combines professional fine art photography with mixed media techniques to create evocative and maximalist patterns that transform traditionally curated walls into life-size works of art. The series features photographs stretching across Malmberg’s career from his personal archive of travel photos, insects, flowers and landscapes to new still-life photos taken in studio. Malmberg first had the idea to launch a wallpaper line several years ago when he began to focus on selling limited-edition prints to interior designers, as the luxury wallpaper would further complement this shift in career focus. He spearheaded the project during the pandemic and spent much of 2020 in the research and development stage. The wallpaper is sold by the yard, available in a variety of colors, including custom colorways and is digitally printed in
the U.S. on the finest quality non-woven, eco-friendly, vellum paper, which is installed using traditional glue adhesive. His wallpaper line has since received national acclaim, appearing
in Business of Home, Architectural Digest and Forbes.
“Wallpaper is a different type of product, that acts as artwork, but can also be removed and replaced with new designs. I kind of love that about it because there is less emotion attached to it,” Malmberg explained. “With my limited edition prints, which can be a little more expensive, there is more thought that goes into buying them from a business standpoint. Prints are pieces of artwork purchased to fit a specific design or space in a room, and they’re treated like a forever purchase. Wallpaper is different and creates a finished look that doesn’t need competition. I recently had Postcards from Rome in tropical green installed on all four walls in my dining room. Previously we had several fine art photographs hanging in the room, but now we’re just going to have the wallpaper on its own because it gives the feeling of curated art.”
The creative process for Malmberg’s wallpaper designs begin with a series of photographs, either retrieved from his archive or taken in-studio, captured with both digital and film
photography, utilizing medium format and 35mm film. Some of the wallpaper designs consist of 60-80 images, layered and stacked on top of each other, while others contain only three
images. From this point, he begins to digitally cut out the photos and interweave them into various collages, occasionally manipulating the photos into abstract images until he finds
symmetrical motifs to incorporate in repeating designs.
While all of the designs were assembled and completed in his studio in Pensacola, Malmberg explained that many of the still-life photos were shot in Pensacola as well, including the images
from the Man O’ War wallpaper and Starfish Galaxy, which features a toy dinosaur in the center focus that Malmberg found on Pensacola Beach after Hurricane Sally. Many of the sourced objects in Malmberg’s wallpaper are a combination of found objects and curated from antique shops and rare shell shops. The images used in the Man O’ War design were taken at Fort Pickens when Malmberg discovered dozens of Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish washed up on the shore during the winter tide shift. Images from both the Man O’ War design and motifs from the Starfish Galaxy are also available in limited-edition prints on Malmberg’s website.
“Some of the designs use my travel-inspired photography and landscapes, like the Postcards from Rome, which are all photos I shot on my trips to Italy in Rome and Pompei and feature a lot of statues you can find around Vatican City,” Malmberg said. “The Inkblot Study design is inspired by Hermann Rorschach’s inkblot test. I used black acrylic and gold leaf sheets to create the symmetrical designs, then photographed them and incorporated them into wallpaper. My eyes are really drawn towards symmetry, and that’s an overarching theme in my work. The goal is to end up with a collection of fine photographs that work well together on their own and can also be transformed into wallpaper.”
The first design Malmberg completed in the spring 2021 collection was the Rorschach Butterflies, which complements the Inkblot Study design and utilizes Peruvian butterflies arranged on sheets of glass, shot with a macro-level lens and a double exposure technique to promote the feeling of movement in the design. Another design in the collection, Lady Liberty pays homage to the 15+ years Malmberg spent living and working in New York. The design abstracts the Statue of Liberty using inverted images of her crown and the tablet she holds bearing the date of the Declaration of Independence to mimic standing below and looking up at the statue. From a distance, the print mirrors a classic and elegantly symmetrical print, but up close it abstracts the statue in a way which resonates with the butterfly, cicada and insect motifs found in Malmberg’s collection. While many of the designs in this first collection utilize these bold colors, abstract collage work and very maximalist design styles, Malmberg said he is also working on a minimalist collection featuring all floral designs.
“Creating these wallpaper designs is something I am probably going to do for the rest of my life,” Malmberg said. “It’s been a blessing to have an outlet through COVID that requires me to be creative and express myself. Unlike commercial photography work with outside artistic direction and working to please a client, there is so much freedom in these designs. The options are infinite in terms of creating a new pattern. I love to get messy with the process and see where the collage and arrangements take me. It always comes out differently than I set out for in my mind’s eye.”
Malmberg’s wallpaper collection is available by the yard in custom colorways at robertmalmberg.com/wallpaper. To keep up to date with new collections and browse limited-edition prints or projects, you can follow @malmberg and @mamlbergwallpaper on Instagram.