Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Neighborhood Watch

Project #2
Ever since growing up in a small suburban neighborhood in eastern Oregon, I have been intrigued by the suburbs and these houses that all look the same. They are lined up in perfect rows with their perfectly manicured lawns and their pathways that wind oh so perfectly to their entryway complete with a door mat that the owner has picked specifically to be welcoming to me. These types of neighborhoods at one point felt so welcoming and comforting to me at one point in my life, but now, they feel foreign and alien. I wander the streets wondering what happens in these houses and what they are hiding just behind their closed doors and drawn window shades. I am so curious about what makes the inside of the house unique to that family and how they have made it into their home. I can’t help but to notice how innocent these houses seem with their perfect flower gardens and their flawless yards without a branch or rock out of place.
Through this project I took inspiration from Sophie Calle in her use of the camera as a spy to get a better understanding of Paris and the people in it. For Calle, returning to Paris after many years of absence was lonely and frightening; she was determined to rediscover the city by following locals around and documenting their actions and travels. She was able to get a feel of how the people of the city lived as well as become familiar with a city she once knew very well. I too plan to use my own camera as a spy, I will be traveling through these neighborhoods and using my camera try to get a glimpse inside the suburban lifestyle and try to see what makes one house so different from another even though they look all the same.
Post shooting:
After several trips to a large suburban area that borders both Eugene and Springfield, I was able to compile a large collection of images of the houses, yards and garages from all around the neighborhood. As I look though these images I am seeing house after house that are all similar shades, shapes and designs, its funny to imagine that there is just this template for a house the builders use and it is all exactly the same. One thing that intrigued me about these houses was their willingness to open up and to show me a glimpse inside whether it is through an open garage or wide-open windows. I was able to walk right up to a house, someone’s home and take a picture of their possessions, their precious belongings and claim them for my own so to speak. House after house was just like this, while there were very few people out in their yards or visible at all, their garages were open, their cars where pulled out onto the street/driveway and their doors and windows were wide open. That familiar feeling of openness and comfort I once felt from these types of neighborhoods was coming back to me quickly, as if I could walk right though that open door and sit on a couch and be greeted warmly. The feeling of security and comfort was apparent in the willingness of the families to open up their space to anyone who might wander past. Is this a good thing? Or are they just opening themselves up to this big bad world we all know is out there? I can’t help but wonder why they all feel so safe, they live in the same world we do, and yet they are not afraid of burglars, kidnappers and criminals?

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