Post-housing crisis, I lost my job and ended up eventually losing my home (and just about everything else). I went from being a solidly middle class professional to an unemployable, homeless and impoverished person in just a matter of months. It has taken me years to recover, both economically and emotionally. For me, this on-going series is a visual commentary on the state of the so-called American Dream. The dream of home ownership is not what it was in the time of my grandparents. For a growing number of Americans, it is no longer attainable. For the rest, disaster and ruin are but one hard luck moment away.
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This photo is the namesake and original inspiration for my series of photographs about the American Dream. There's a storm coming, but this house has already endured the worst. Her situation begs the question: What happened? If it weren't for her location in Kentucky, one might assume she had suffered an earthquake. Maybe a sinkhole opened up under her foundation instead. But the truth of this house's story of abandonment has its roots in love - she was being moved to a new location when a storm came up and blew her off her piers. She was left where she fell, a testament to a lost dream.
Strip away the surface and you expose snippets of the stories that imbue our places with meaning: the bones of a place and a life. This house has lost its people and its cladding. Inside, one can still find old furniture, clothing, and even the family TV. It looks as though the inhabitants just decided one day to walk out and never return. Outside, where the skin of the house is missing, one can see evidence that this place once flourished. It was expanded with an addition at some point and the back porch was enclosed. Now a tree grows in the back bedroom and moss thrives on the shingles, yet the texture and color of her old bones are still beautiful in the morning light.
Cabin in the Woods
Private property was the cornerstone of American expansion and has been the primary aspiration of many of its people for hundreds of years. The majority of us still strive to own a plot of land crowned with a suitable dwelling and spend the most productive years of our lives working towards achieving that goal. Unfortunately, many of us never achieve it, or end up losing it to bad luck or poor judgement once we do. Like the diminutive dormer above this abandoned cabin's door, the American Dream offers little protection for us dreamers. This old place sits outside of a privately owned natural attraction in Bowling Green, Ky. It may have never truly been a home, but it's still owned by somebody and off limits as it decays back into the forest.
Locally Owned and Operated
The Payroll Office
The late afternoon light projected a series of rectangular shadows through the windows of this abandoned house. They emphasize the repeating right angles in the composition; the window frame, the small window on the interior wall, the interior door to the left, and the repeating angles of the stairs themselves. All the while, humanity's angular ambitions are challenged by one simple organic element; a creeping, green vine flowering with the promise of Spring.
I imagine that many neighbors, friends and family dogs were welcomed through this backdoor when this house was inhabited. What used to be an open back porch was enclosed years ago, probably to provide storage and protection out of the elements for a new set of stairs to the attic. Someone tried to improve this home and increase is square footage. Now the door is permanently open and the windows are shattered. The remnants of a family's life litter the stairs. This place is beyond recovery by anything other than nature.
Open for Business
In God We Trust
Up in Smoke
I don't know what caused it, but the futility of a family's attempts to save their home is evidenced by the small fire extinguisher still sitting on the front steps of this house. For a time, I passed this burnt out shell every day as I drove home from work. One day, when the clouds were dramatically back lit in the sky, I decided to stop and photograph it. This photo reminds me that when a fire destroys a home, if we survive, we lose our shelter, material belongings, mementos and sometimes even our pets. What many fail to realize is that we also tragically lose our sense of place - that experience of place and self that gets embodied through the act of dwelling.