I know what houses represent to me. (finally)
I know why they are shot the way they are.
I am fascinated by and irresistibly drawn to my childhood.
But I can no longer access the safety, my family or the warmth of community I experienced as a child. Families are gone, homes are sold, neighborhoods are changing.
The world is not safe.
My work centers on the idea of home, the regions in which I hope to live or the spaces I dream of living in. While I deeply appreciate the aesthetics of architecture and the character of a neighborhood, another part of me imagines possessing one of these homes and living in this world. The communities that I photograph awaken a yearning for the familiar. Over time, I have become aware that these photographs represent a longing for my childhood and an inability to find similar feelings in my present life.
I grew up in a suburban area of Northern California that was designed for young families; an inspired postwar utopian community that made modern architecture affordable. These homes, once built for the middle-class, are currently part of one of the most expensive zip codes in the US. This mid century architecture, has become the prized possession of Silicon Valley executives. I would like nothing more than to move back to my childhood neighborhood. But, I know this is forever beyond my reach and I fear I will never be at home in the world again.
When I visit my childhood neighborhood, I frequently associate a memory with a stark roofline, or a weary fence that leans over to the left. My memories are often tied with color, light and the scent of the privet bushes and flowering plum trees. In our yard I planted two bushes, a yellow rose in memory of grandmother, and a blue hydrangea in memory of my mother. Both of these bushes have been removed to make way for a drought tolerant landscape. I take some comfort in knowing that underneath the pristine turf of a recently purchased lawn, my childhood pet cemetery remains intact.
The trees that lined my street were small and had a disease; but now, years later, the healthy branches form a canopy over the street. The street feels embraced and safe for those within, whom I never see. I am relieved to see the trees survived, but melancholy because they no longer protect me.
I’m learning over time that my quest, in part, has been to find these neighborhoods intact. Yet, I am finding that while the homes look similar, they feel lifeless. There are no kids playing in the yards or biking through the streets. There are no children skateboarding down the hill; I don’t hear anxious dogs barking or glimpse wandering grandmothers. All seems empty and vacant. A profusion of RV’s and carefully tended lawns suggest that these homes are lived in. Yet, I sense an emptiness and feel a lack of community.
If I have a photographic memory, it’s not for numbers or pages. Instead, I recall a pale September light that stretches across the avocado green carpet and rests for two seconds on the burnt orange sweater of my grandmother right before it dips behind the redwood fence. Now, I am aware that I will always be standing outside on the sidewalk, trying to look in.