eve morgenstern – abandonment and foreclosure

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Eve Morgenstern

Abandonment And Foreclosure

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The recent foreclosure crises has spread like a pandemic across the country, wreaking havoc on cities and their neighborhoods and leaving abandoned homes to begin their process of neglect and decline. It is not unusual to walk down a street in some cities and find three or even more homes in a row that are abandoned and in some stage of foreclosure.  This new landscape of empty homes brings with it higher rates of crime and the sad, derelict appearance of desertion.

This photographic series, Abandonment and Foreclosure is a long-term project I am working on that documents recently foreclosed and long abandoned homes in cities across the country. Here the house no longer represents the American dream of belonging and security but of uncertainty and loss – a loss of identity and of specific personal histories both past and future. My process of documenting these structures is both a kind of preservation and an attempt to bear witness to the facts of what happened there.

Influenced by Walker Evans’s images of vernacular architecture in the United States and Bernd and Hilla Becher’s images of houses and industrial buildings in Germany, this project will be an extensive archival record of the unstable state of the American home today and will expand to include images from Las Vegas, Stockton, Tampa, Denver, Buffalo and Cleveland.  Plans include an exhibition and a book.

The images were published this year in a special Le Monde 2 magazine issue devoted to the election of Barack Obama and they were featured in Jen Bekman Gallery’s Hey Hot Shot blog in a piece about photographers making work about the recession: http://www.heyhotshot.com/blog/2009/06/11/photographing-the-recession. As an artist I am interested in stories about home and impermanence and explore this in my documentary film in progress: Cheshire, Ohio: http://rainlake.com/development/cheshire.html.



Eve Morgenstern is a photographer and filmmaker from Brooklyn, NY now living in San Francisco, CA. She has received grants for her work from the New York State Council on the Arts, The Anthony Radziwill Documentary Fund, The Park Foundation and Next Pix/First Pix for “humanistic media”.  Her photographs have been published in Le Monde 2, The New York Times, View Camera and The Saint Ann’s Review and have been exhibited across the country. She received her B.A. in Art History from Vassar College and her M.F.A. in Photography from The San Francisco Art Institute.


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Eve Morgenstern


Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

51 Responses to “eve morgenstern – abandonment and foreclosure”

  • I love this kind of photography. Great works Eve!

  • I like this body of work and the concept eve. For some reason I enjoyed it more on your site and enjoyed seeing how the pieces were framed and shown in a gallery. Cant wait to see what you find in other parts of the country and how you add to this project.

  • Well Marcin, I love your kind of photography! This series leaves me feeling a bit cold. It’s a noble project, but 14 nearly identical photographs as a way of representing harsh economic times doesn’t work for me. Doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. I’d like to see the photographer go inside–literally as well as figuratively–to show us more.

  • There are so many projects of this type that I have seen now—-portraits of dilapidated, abandoned houses in Detroit and the like… http://www.100abandonedhouses.com. I just don’t see this as being much different to many of the others. The work of Yves Merchand and Romain Meffre, for example, says so much more. … http://www.marchandmeffre.com/detroit/index.html

  • This project for me is capturing the sense of bleakness of a time – that which globally we are going through. at present. Interesting that each of the properties are very similar in style / size – is this a comment on a particular part of society? Are there mansions being foreclosed also and could they feature to give a complementary contrast to your project? While the sense of bleakness is there, there is little in the way of human emotion. Again, I wonder is there such an angle available to complement your project?

    Hope it goes well for you. Good luck.

  • I have to agree with James. I appreciate the effort of documenting this sort of thing, the recession is the story of our time (along with those pesky wars), but I guess I just hope there’s a better way to cover it.


    Have you seen this one — http://www.jamesgriffioen.net/index.php?/prairies/feral-houses/

    More interesting than most I think, maybe because it’s his hometown, the whole site is a study on that decay…

  • i read somewhere recently that there are seven empty homes to every homeless person.
    if true, that is a crying shame.

  • Not sure if the most decrepit houses have anything to do with the “crisis”. It seems an awful lot of damage in 2 years. And it’s a stupid comment maybe, but where does it show, in the pictures REALLY (not in the text), that these houses are on the market because of crisis/foreclosures.

    That is my problem with the essay. Once more, The text tells us everything we need to know, the pictures merely an addendum, in the end.

    To really show us what you wanted us to see, no mention should be made of influences (especially those whose pictures stand so well alone, without text) and since your pictures of a house on sale are pictures of houses on sale, if need really be, merely mentionning when they were taken. Then let us imagine what could be the reason of the sales, of the decrepitude.

    Last, not to confuse shooting the vernacular, and vernacular pictures. But maybe their simple computer screen appearance does not do justice to the extent of your vision and craft.

  • Thanks for your essay. I think every town has always had dilapidated houses and neighbourhoods. It would help to have some kind of context to indicate scale, whether it be figures for the number of abandoned houses in a given city or a map locating your photographs. Bruce Gilden’s work on this topic is burned into my mind. He contextualized the buildings by interviewing and photographing the residents and recording their audio stories. His contact sheets became a type of map.


  • Hello and thank you for all your comments. It’s always interesting to hear. Valery – thank you for looking at my website. It’s nice to hear your comments on the installed work because it’s true – I mean for these works to ideally be seen in person as objects and the prints are very detailed and rich. I use a large format camera and spend a lot of time on the printmaking. I love to see all the details of the architecture in the print – plywood over a window, overgrown grass – these details hold the pathos for me. But, alas, the computer does not translate this well. Tommy – I am photographing mansions and other kinds of homes and will add them to the series. This group of images is just a small portion of the project. Just returned from Denver and Las Vegas! I’m headed to an artist residency at Macdowell in the fall so expecting to produce more for this project then. And thank you Marcin! I really enjoyed looking at your work. Cheers, Eve

  • When I read the introductory statement I certainly thought of the crisis of foreclosures in every neighborhood here in Detroit. But when I looked at the first images I saw nothing different from what I’ve been seeing around here for decades — boarded-up, desolate, burned-out shells of houses that are falling apart by degrees. Most of Eve’s early images in this edit are obviously of houses that were abandoned long before the forclosures began. The latter images seem to be of more recently affected houses, but I still didn’t see any evidence that they are FORECLOSED houses. In Detroit there is a special sign that is posted on the doors of foreclosed houses. Is that true in other cities? If so, that would be a powerful identifying mark of what is happening.

    I am reluctant to compare one photographer’s work with another, but, for me, Bruce Gilden’s recent photo essays on the foreclosure crisis say what needs to be said. I am especially touched by his essay on Detroit:


    Eve, you are tackling a very important issue and I hope you will continue to dig ever more deeply into it. There are too many people who are suffering and need to have their losses seen by those of us who still have houses to live in. These are times where the divide between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots” is becoming unbridgeable. Much of this is cloaked in statistics that never tell the story of the people. It is photographers who can show what is really happening. Thank you, Eve, for taking on this important work.


  • What a shame and a waste the banks can’t let people continue to live in the houses until they are sold and someone else wants to move in.

    As someone who doesn’t live in the states, I enjoy merely to see these styles of house documented. The fact that its empty and delapidated, and the reasons why, are secondary for my viewing but obviously a worthwile project. I think its a good point about including foreclosures on mansions and new houses.

  • Yeah, that’s my problem with this, too. Most of these houses were obviously abandoned long before the foreclosure crisis. Photos of a bunch of old abandoned houses does not a project make. Just doesn’t work.

  • Hi Jim – The project is “Abandonment and Foreclosure” – long abandoned homes in Detroit, MI and recently foreclosed homes in Oakland, CA. It’s also a work in progress and will also include long abandoned homes in Buffalo and Cleveland as well as recently foreclosed homes in Las Vegas, Denver, Tampa and Stockton. It’s not a project solely about foreclosure.Cheers, Eve

  • Nothing personal eve but i find these utterly dull and pointless. They are not even well shot(IMHO). If this is what grants are spent on then they should be stopped. it seems every man and his dog are jumping on the ‘real estate collapse’ bandwagon. Are they the new homeless now?
    Where is any hint of a story here? This has the look of a gallery wanabe dressed up as social commentary.

    David has published this, and lots of people seem to like it, but i must stick with what i feel and what i see in front of me and say that i disagree with you all on this. I do not see good photography, I do not see good social comment and i do not see anything here other than pure record shots.


  • Sorry to break the one comment rule and sorry eva and everyone if that last comment is a bit blunt but that is how i feel about the work. It in no way reflects on either the photographer or this site it is just my opinion. albeit a strongly felt one.


  • Like many of you, I just can’t feel this pictures. Maybe we are watching them with the wrong frame of mind, expecting classic documentary work?

    I’d love to read why David choose it, maybe then I’ll can understand this type of photography.

  • Sorry Eve, but this isn’t taking me anyplace, or telling me a story (at least not the one your text suggests). The only place it took me was “cool old houses”. I’m not sure if you are trying for symbolism, documentary, some sort of artisitic statement, but I’m just not getting it.

  • I’ve never broken the one post rule… but others do regularly, so here’s my one shot….

    John Gladdy…. Amoung other things, you say “but i must stick with what i feel and what i see in front of me and say that i disagree with you all on this. I do not see good photography, I do not see good social comment and i do not see anything here other than pure record shots.”

    I see many comments that are a little short of praise here. Sounds like you are suggesting you are the lone voice of dissent. I wonder who the “you all” is in this case?


    i think you were part of the majority , so far, of most not really “getting” the work of Eve….certainly fair enough and for heaven’s sake, i want strong opinions…yours was clearly stated….you must know that i knew that this would be the majority reaction….

    one thing that did surprise me however was that nobody picked up on the rather eerie and seemingly impossible task for Eve to have shot all those homes in EXACTLY the same flat light…as if they had all been shot at the same moment in time..i thought surely someone would notice that right away..that was the first thing i saw and i kept going back and forth trying to figure out how she did it…Eve was obviously being undramatic and unadorned on very clear purpose and totally referential to her influences in photography….not everyone’s cup of tea….but definitely shot with this flat result as her clear intent and without apology…

    cheers, david

  • And all are similar architecture and nearly all have the bay window or the canted front … but does clear intent, reverently referential images, and all done without apology necessarily make for good photography?

    I don’t know, this isn’t a style that is my cup of tea, either, and that’s fine but I have seen this done with a 4 x 5 so many times now, I suspect in every university that has a photo program (including the local college lab that I frequent), that it seems redundant even if done very well. At least it’s not an empty street suburb I suppose. Does this set the photographer apart, advance the thematic message, or shine a light into a dark corner? I don’t know … but it did make me think, again, about this type of photography.

  • Well I haven’t been around a lot lately and I rarely comment negatively on what I see here…


    This time I just can’t hold my tongue…

    This is what my father used to inelegantly describe as Tommy-Rot- meaning it gives me the same feeling of repulsion for the photographic ‘Art’ industry as seeing someones teeth rotted by Coke-a-Cola!

    Sure- I noticed the flat lighting and was actually interested a bit by that as an ‘artistic’ device, but what really gets my goolies is the fact- and it has been observed by several astute and regular contributors here- that many of these houses have probably lain derelict before the GFC and the current ‘foreclosure pandemic’ In fact the ‘artist’ actually states that in her descriptive prose about the essay.

    I find the words and photos an affront, not a deep and intelligent dissertation on belonging and dispossession but a rather lack lustre group of images that look like a well funded ‘darling of the art set’ photographer with little imagination has jumped on the latest ’cause celebre’ and tried to make a thesis out of it using the latest ‘minimalist’ approach.

    At best this work is derivative and thoughtless at worst its an illustration of the constant repetition of ‘conceptual art’ at its most banal.

  • And…

    (yes I know I am breaking the one comment rule but for some reason this bit didn’t post)

    How the hell do you ‘Bear Witness’ to something that is long gone?

    The banality and repetitious nature of the ‘loss of identity’ of the former residents of the houses might be one theorectical stance that the author of this work has tried encapsulate- but then to write in the same sentence- that the author desired to ‘Bear Witness’ to me seems to be the work of art theory as mixed metaphor.

    ‘Bear Witness’…Oh Puhleeze!

  • To me, Anthony Suau’s work, winner of last year’s World Press, is a much stronger impression of the foreclusers in the U.S.


    I know, I know…DAH is going to say this is too NAPPA (been there…done that), but from a story telling, mood creating, thought provoking point of view, these photos do more justice to the real plight of the people….and the 5th photo in the series is a simple shot of old row houses on a cold winter day..ie. 1 photo does the job of all the pictures presented by Eve.

  • hi eve

    your work drew me back to look at gildens magnum in motion piece again..

    i think as a project it is worthwhile.. of course there is merit to photographing around the states extensively since the end result could be overwhelming.. driving the point home..

    i would bemoan the lack of people.. personally i like seeing people in photos, or at least hearing them.. and perhaps this is one essay which, on the web at least, could benefit from some audio interviews? as it stands, although i find looking at empty houses interesting.. imagining the families who lived there.. kids in the yard.. i found the houses here a little too similar..

    i wonder if photographing very different neighbourhoods.. suburbs.. differently constructed houses.. could bring more interest?

    in any case.. as a long term project you have chosen to pursue – i think it is worthwhile.. and the series defiantly succeeds in bringing a feeling of loss, destruction and misery.. perhaps bringing some people into the mix could put a face to the issue and make the work less banal.



    i like the Tony Suau piece, but see no relationship to what he did and what Eve was trying to do…


    i totally understand everything you are saying except for your apparent anger that Eve is making a false claim to “bearing witness”…perhaps we have different definitions of what “bearing witness” means…to me, bearing witness is simply looking at a subject, shooting it as it stands, and no manipulation of any kind…what do you mean by “bearing witness”?? i am not suggesting that you should like these pictures, but surely they are pure documentary whether or not you appreciate the aesthetic…

    as you either know or can guess, i was not at all personally influenced by either Walker Evans nor Bernd and Hilla Becher, as was Eve….but, that does not mean i cannot appreciate the austere feel of Evans, the Becher’s, Polidori, Robert Adams, etc…this is the aesthetic that Eve wants (fyi, i have never met her, nor ever spoken to her..just going on her statement)…this is not what you want to do, nor me either …fine…but, why the rejection of a whole aesthetic as if it had no value because it is not what you do??

    please understand where i am coming from on this….i am not getting on “your case” Lisa…first, you are one of my favorite people on the planet, and i like the work you do….. however, you have brought up an interesting phenomena in my mind….of all the artists i know, photographers , for whatever reason, seem to be the most narrow minded within the discipline itself…for example, many photographers would listen to a wide variety of music, see action movies or comedy, read fiction, non-fiction, history, whatever, and yet confine themselves to only one style of photography appreciation….of course you can only DO one or maybe two things, but why does this so often lead to an actual “anger” towards another type or style?? a sincere question….

    cheers, david

  • Unfortunately, I am in general agreement with the majority of the detractors, albeit not the one who finds these photos an affront. Herve’s statement that perhaps the computer screen look of the photos does not do justice to the photographer’s artistic vision strikes me as most perceptive. Regarding the number of photographers that have tackled like themes, if we refrain from doing similar work to that which has been done before, there’s not a whole hell of a lot left to shoot.

    But as for me: I very much like looking at dilapidated houses so when I look at a photograph of a dilapidated house, I want to see something that I don’t normally perceive. I want the photograph to be better than what I see with my own eyes. A different way of framing the image. A perspective that I do not normally notice. Perhaps a larger context that somehow illuminates something or things. I get none of that from this work. And granted, the problem is most likely my own, not the photographers. Nevertheless, and back to Herve’s comment, I respect the photographer’s artistic vision but am not exactly down with the presentation.

    Also, as someone who shares an interest in the subject, I’m curious why there are no interior shots.

  • I dont have much time to write (cooking breakfast for Big Little Man who has just returned home)….it was interesting too to read all the comments, as well as what sounds like venom (something i just have never understood here or elsewhere) with regard to work that doesnt sit well or speak to others….

    anyway….i think the relationship between the text and the imagery is off, as these pictures speak not at all to me of the current economic crisis and displacement (this is my biggest beef with photography statements, as Herve correctly points out, statements that seem to be ‘more’ than the work itself, and I am saying that as both a photographer and a writer) then about a larger urban issue (the flight of the urban center and it’s degradation, as well as another interesting phenomenon, which is the natural dissipation of a nation, a city, a home, etc….someone i believed mentioned the work of ‘feral homes’ (a project i saw a few months ago), and i love that series…

    also, some extent, I was reminded of the remarkable conceptual artist Gordon Matta-Clark…who cut homes in half, cut out holes in buildings, etc…matta-clark was an extraordinary thinker and artist, and while I do not compare directly his brilliant work with this essay, i think there is a line of thinking that yields together…

    while i didn’t find the essay interesting as ‘witness’ toward the current foreclosure environment, I did enjoy the essay for 2 remarkable things: 1) the ‘sameness’ of all the pictures: the gray, hazy light, the ‘shape’ and look of the buildings (even though they differ by city and architecture style and street location): in fact, it’s like an one long extended portrait of the same person, the same building, over time…which, at least to me, gets me thinking….if we celebrate the uniqueness of things, the uniqueness of ourselves and our cities and our nation and our communities and yet we allow all these beautiful buildings to rot away, if we allow the families who’ve shaped these buildings with their lives and souls to disappear from our thoughts and our feelings, what does this really say about ourselves, as people, as communities, as a nation(s), an old building, while beautiful and chimeric, will always conjure for me the voice of people (who doesnt walk past abandoned buildings without trying to hear or listen for the lives and voices which once lent it real shape?) who’d lived there and gave the home/building/neighborhood/city real life…the sameness of nearly every picture (visually) strangely enough anthropomorphizes the pictures, makes them appear (odd this experience) more human…because Eve has used virtually the same light, the same focal distance, the same vertical frame, the same pictorial relationship, it oddly makes it stronger to me….


    2) the pictures seem to me less like an essay in documentary reportage than it does as a photographic essay akin to Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings of san francisco….when i first looked at this yesterday, i thought: i wonder if Eve knows Thiebaud’s series?…or the work of my hero Richard Diebenkorn?…anyway, what i enjoyed about these photographs is their graphic relationship to those paintings and how that, for me, is clearly testament enough about place and beauty and how it inhabits us long after we have abandoned it, and therein lay the heartbreak of what we’ve done to cities and one another….

    I wonder if the anger toward the work comes from the work itself or the expectations set forth by both the statement and the reader’s desires…it’s an interesting phenomenon indeed….

    it would be kind of interesting to have a statement that reflected Eve’s relationship to buildings, her relationship to memory of neighborhoods and/or why these particular buildings struck her, these neighborhood…for I wish to tell eve that ALL HOMES ARE UNSTABLE…for our lives, our neighborhoods, our nations…our bodies and heads and spirits are in a state of flux and dissipation…so often art schools (and i know that from first hand experience) teach their students (at least in their writing and their thinking) to actively miss the forest for the trees….and what a shame….

    for decay has deep richness that transcends this particular time just as the joy of feeling connection to the loss of place (see Berger) speaks infinitely richer than an opaque socio-economic refraction.

    I’d love to here the personal voice of Eve in the statement, for oddly, i found these photographs rooted in her personal appreciation and connection to place….to me, clearly (like evans too), she’s a walker…and walkers hear the voices around them :))))

    thanks so much for sharing

  • house…
    lack of….
    don’t feel a story,
    beautiful prints…
    the adored
    a clean approach,
    to such an
    ugly matter….

  • Hello everyone –

    David has encouraged me to write a response and here goes. Sorry to break the 1 comment rule! I think, in retrospect I should have waited until my images from several other cities were complete to add to this rather than show the work in progress (I am adding homes from Denver, Stockton, Las Vegas, Tampa, Buffalo, Cleveland and perhaps others to the mix) and I also wish I had been a little more clear in my statement that this project is not just about foreclosure but also about abandonment. The limitations to the Burn site do not display the titles I put on the images so I wish you had seen the the first set are long abandoned homes in Detroit and the next set are recent foreclosures in Oakland, CA.

    The cities of Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo contain thousands and thousands of abandoned homes due to many years of economic decline and I intend to put images of those homes against recent foreclosures in this country to bring up ideas about the very, very deep and disturbing problems in this country of failing industry and job loss, urban blight, white flight and more recently the mortgage crises and how we just allow this to happen and the tragedy of it all. In any case, for me the project is interesting (or will be interesting) when I have added a large amount of images of homes from all over the country. The cumulative experience of seeing so many homes together from different areas, with varying architecture, i hope, will have an impact that is devastating and heartbreaking. Home represents security and ownership and personal history and so much more – it’s a fascinating topic (I am also directing a film about a town that was bulldozed by a power plant – you can see the link to a trailer posted in my statement) and one I intend to continue to explore. As someone who has personally been living in temporary housing and sublets for a few years now I do think a lot about the psychological need and attachment of home. The topic is endlessly interesting to me. Did anyone see the recent NY TIMES article ‘The House of your Dreams’ about the disturbing dreams and nightmares people are currently having about home? But I have not been interested in photographing people or interiors or other angles yet – that would make for a whole other project and I want to keep mine focused on the facades.

    Many of you have pointed out there is great work being produced about these issues. I absolutely love Bruce Gilden’s essay. It’s incredible. And also really like the feral houses and the 100 houses. Thank you all for posting those again. I hope many more photographers continue to put their lens on the conditions of our cities in this country. Bob – I also love the brilliant Gordon Matta-Clark project of splitting the house and the work of Theibaud, Diebenkorn – and I would add Edward Hopper to that mix. Also, of course Walker Evans, The Bechers and William Christenberry, Eggleston, Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams and many others looking at architecture of the home. Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comments. They are extremely helpful and I am already feeling inspired moving forward thinking about some of your insightful comments. For those who are interested I encourage you to look at the installation images on my website where you can see the work exhibited. I intend for the project, and the images to be seen in person and to stand in front of these homes and see the detail and I think a lot is lost from the experience seeing them on the web.

    One thing I just wanted to add as a closing is that a couple of you speak with such anger and “venom” as someone put and this really disturbs me. I can’t imagine writing that way about another artist’s work in such a public forum. Perhaps David’s comments touched on the “narrow mindedness” of many photographers and I have come across this too, sadly and I find it upsetting. I wish we could change this tone on Burn. But again, thank you all for this very interesting forum.

  • eve :))))

    that’s it exactly :)))…love love Christenberry’s work so much….and can i point u in one last direction too…the work of the remarkable 80 year old Arnaud Maggs….really, i saw this essay so much as a long series of portraits (people’s faces in the guise of homes) or a series of portraits of land a la diebenkorn or theibaud….maybe it was the statement that upset people, i dont know…and i dont know, really, why people always get so angry about others work (though, i’m now buddha, and i get upset too, mostly by behavior or when folks demean work, ….i aint no saint ;)) ), but it’s always a mystery to me…in the photo world (other worlds) but particularly on the web…makes no sense…then again, i often get criticized for supporting almost everything/everyone ;)))…i dont really know…we’re all the same, we’re on minutiae, we all will disappear, make, if any, merely dust-paw prints on the ledge, nothing more, and even that will grow over with kudzu….the world is a weird place…ad my wife says, smile ;))…when my Bones was published, i found it fun…weird how folk battle over pictures rather than to celebrate the effort to make sense of the world, which is what i think all of us simply are trying to do…as i once wrote long long ago, if people subtitute the word ‘person’ for ‘this picture’ or ‘this essay’ they would be shocked at how obnoxious and distressing the negativity would sound…not that im a preacher, i got my own ditractions, but i just have never understood the enmity about other photographers….behavior (when someone asks badly) i get, but over work….odd, really…

    anyway, here is Maggs, if you’re not familiar with his work…his early portrait grids are brilliant…144 views of Andre Kertesz…or his series on Karsh or my favorite on Beuys…or French chefs…he ALWAYS does things in long long series, repetitions that become like music….sameness with some, suble gradations…please check him out…his work, the entire body of his work (which is now purely about conceptual idea of what is a photograph) is brilliant…

    i see ur essay like his work…like a musical score…not at all, per se, about economic crisis, but the music of place..e.tc

    enjoy maggs…

    ok, running out with my son..30 rolls of film hanging in the room.

    keep your walking pace :))

  • EVE…BOB…

    just to keep the record totally straight for all of us concerned…most of the comments here where the writer was not enamored with this essay, were not at all angry and were totally respectful even in their lack of enthusiasm….dissenting voices are always heard as loud voices…in any case, this has all led to some interesting discussion and set up some new perspectives and revealed some artists/photographers for whom some may not have been aware…i.e. ,i did not know of Maggs….many many thanks to both of you….

    cheers, david

  • typo: i’m NOT (not not not) buddha ;))))…sorry….;))))

    david :))…i never am bothered when people dont like work (mine or others)…what i dont like is when folks ‘attack’ or voice venom…most of the people who didnt like the work were absolutely respectful…and hell, i didn’t like the statement, or rather, i didnt think the statement did justice to the qualities of this essay, for i saw the work not about the economic crisis, but actually a much more personal and much more ambiguous and much more ‘odd’ essay, which is why i liked it so much…but, i dont take eve to task per se, because few photographers can write a good statement, it’s the photographs that are the statements…and besides, i look at the work to speak to me, tell me a story…it’s only when comments seem derogatory or demeaning or voice enmity to the photographer, that i feel uncomfortable, i felt that above…as for Maggs…he’s a god…and he’s an incredibly amazing and kind person in real life…he melted marina :)))…if u look at Magg’s entire work, from the grid/series of portraits of Kertez, Beuys, chefs, workers etc up through his conceptual photographs of postcards, letters, envelopes from Paris to his recent more conceptual stuff (photographs of color books), he’s just a brilliant inspired photographer….and i see the conceptual part of this essay akin to what Maggs did earlier….

    dissent, by the way, is ALWAYS GOOD!…what is my own life’s work if not in dissent ?? ;))))….always it is good…….anyway…i wouldnt want burn (or real life) qquiet, i love the LOUDNESS of dissent (john, lisa, others) for sure, i just wish the tilt didnt’ seem as an attack…or maybe im just too much a guy who preferand that’s what is great still about burn and other places: we’re all learning, all sharing….we should do this in celebration rather than antagonistically :)))…..

    running to pick up paper and take dima to a movie…


  • hahaha – bobus.. was hoping you’d not spot the typo..
    very funny :o)

  • It is already late in Europe, so I am a bit brief.
    Eve’s work is important because it documents the decay in some of the America’s cities. It certainly appeals only to the viewer who has the right antenna for it. During my studies many of my fellow students took pictures in a very similar way: overcast sky, detailed large format prints, no tilt and it was mostly about places that were on the brink of destruction. To me this always seemed rather boring and pointless because I was looking for drama, excitment, a story and action.
    Over the years I learned to appreciate this rather quiet, not excited kind of photography. Inevitably the Bechers come to my mind. Eve mentioned them as well. They were the first to photograph in such a way. Their idea was to create an “objective” and systematic documentation of old houses, old steel factories, mines and water tanks. Unfortunately I am not an expert on them, but I have heard Bernd and Hilla Becher talk about their work and then it became clear to me that they put all their energy into this work. Eve shows the same sincerity and dedication. There is a lot of thinking and concept behind this work. I have great respect for that!
    Eve, good luck with your work! I believe you are on a good track!

  • “I want to keep mine focused on the facades.”………. the project’s concept needs refinement otherwise it will become just that a faceade

  • I agree with Eve, there does indeed seem to be too much venom on Burn in how people speak. I also dont really get why an essay would create so much anger in others.

    My take on this essay is that it could be better done. One thing is the compositions. I fond that many of these images are composed in a way that leaves me unsatisfied.Many of the images look to me to be tilted to the left. There is too much clutter at the edges. Clipped cars, clipped branches, even clipped roof of the main subject. All the details at the edges really took my attention away. Is there no way to isolate these homes from the surroundings? I took a look at Gilden’s work and he did a much better job using for example trees and bushes to frame some of the houses and thereby isolating them in the frame.

    Im also not a fan of white skies. To me it just doesn’t look appealing in a photograph to have a flat, white sky. Im sure Eve could have chosen a better time of day to shoot these. I don’t think the flat light adds anything to the essay. Yes, it does create continuity but not in a good way. Even could have created continuity with much more appealing light.

    I do think the idea is fine, and I don’t know why Lisa for example, had such an outburst of anger over it.

  • “Need Restoration”… i see yes…
    “Need immediate fix”… i also see”…
    “Hi im from Echo Park”…. i see
    “Foreclosure”???… laughing… no i dont see that anywhere…
    “Abandonment” or “Recently bought by D.Trump”.. i see…
    Venice and Topanga or Echo Park i see…
    I dont see the big yellow sign anywhere…
    Foreclosed is not necessary old and abandoned…
    In California people abandon their pets in the forclosed houses and in
    many cases they stay in their homes till the very last minute that the sherif will
    take ’em out to the street,,…
    thats the forclosure… you enter any of those houses and you can still smell of the life
    that just got interrupted..
    so… yes… hmmm no… sorry…

  • Eve

    I appreciate your images as architectural studies but they don’t speak to me of
    abandonment or foreclosure nor the emotion that the decision to abandon ones home
    must involve.

    Recently, I purchased Eugene Richards, The Blue Room ( http://www.photoeye.com/Bookstore/citation.cfm?Catalog=PI209 ) and with this work I was able to emotionally connect, or imagine, the mental trauma
    that would come with abandoning ones home.
    While his exterior images are for the most part somewhat similar to yours in that they don’t do much
    other that set the stage it is the interior images, where he focuses on what was left behind that
    really drives the point home for me.


  • Eve, theses are consistent and well executed images. You do say that this is a work in progress so let me offer a thought or two.

    You concentrated on old but beautiful houses, some just short of collapse. There are many reasons for what you are witnessing. Absentee ownership is on the top of my list for decay in historic structures. Of course any of these houses can easily go to foreclosure. An absentee owner does not treat the property like his home and will cast it off when necessary. But the larger problem with this is that many of these wonderful houses have survived the changing social dynamics of their neighborhood and become low-income rentals. With the current economy this will not get better. No rent, no income, no upkeep. In comes building inspection and down goes the structure.

    Advocating for minimum maintenance can make a difference. By requiring property owners to keep a house structurally safe, gives communities a tool to counter blighting. But of course this assumes that it is enforced.

    Enough for now, my head is hurting. Personally, you can never get enough reminders of how beautiful architecture from the past enriches our surroundings.

  • I will not comment on the work because I would hate to be perceived as full of anger and venom. I’ll only make this one comment, touching on said anger and venom. If an artist is creating work which they expect will bring up only half of the entire Universe of feelings, they are stunted in their view of how art works. To be dismayed when people forcefully voice their negative opinions is childish, at best. Art must engage. If it engages negatively, that forceful negativity is just as valid as the greatest, slithering adulation. I have learned much more from the army of my “venomous” critics that from the handful of those who think it’s OK. The strength of BURN is its open-minded character. If people start holding their tongues because someone may be “disturbed” by “venomous” responses, BURN will die a very ugly death. Criticism must always be allowed to flourish in directions, not just the mostly useless, warm and fuzzy one.

  • Necessary documentary work… very easy, too easy, subject to photograph:), anybody can do this with success, but because the lack of challenge, very few emarging photographers choose such subjects.

  • Photographers make things harder than it needs to be.

    There’s loads of narrative with these images and the execution is deliberate, cohesive, and intelligent.

    Title this work with ‘Terminally Ill’ and the images will leave you gasping for air. No one needs to be told anything more than this, but i’m certain they will think more than this with just those two words, but instead, with all those high-brow artistic-statement intentions the audience will only think how cheated they feel after reading the artist statement and matching it to the work.

    I think most that view this work come from an era that there was almost always work and therefore with a few exception (e.g. Love Canal) there was always value on homes, enough to keep them somewhat healthy. These homes look from that era, these homes photographed are also rich in variety; most living in the States would think one of these homes looked like one they grew up in.

    I suppose people are surprised by different things and I only sampled the comments of the people that amuse me with their opinions: because they’re solid, and other’s just because they’re predictable. So my surprise in the reception of these images is this: I’m really surprised no one felt the homes were personified to such a level you stopped thinking about the economy and the politics and the social migration, and only thought about such stories like Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’ only there is not an amicable ending to these personified givers. If you did think that, then cool, it seems the typical human emotion.

    I’m not surprised that most dawn their.. ‘What did this work tell me?, what did it reveal?, what merit does this have as documentary work?’.. glasses. I’m not surprised because that’s what the Artist had the audacity to offer and not really deliver. The irony I sort of think, is the photographer could have delivered an ‘emotion’ to coincide with what nobody really needs revealed, and delivering emotion is loads harder. These images do conjure up a sad emotion for me, I’m sad for the homes, they deserve a more noble end, a more dignified end, instead they’ll just be pretty certain to come to an end, if only artist statements could come to an end instead.


    nobody is suggesting warm and fuzzy….how about just intelligent ?? as you and Joe just now….i read lots of movie and book reviews and critique in general…the best are certainly not personal attacks nor venomous in nature…sarcastic maybe, chiding maybe, but still the intelligence of the best reviewers is not marred by sliding down the slippery slope of not giving a true framework for the critique…however i did get a good laugh when you said “If people start holding their tongues because someone may be “disturbed” by “venomous” responses, BURN will die a very ugly death.” aren’t you being just a wee bit dramatic??

    cheers, david

  • EVE…

    It would be interesting to see how the responses would differ if you had edited the large array of images you have taken for this project differently.

    I would take some comfort in that we are an emotional bunch here it seems and .. well, ? you’ve caused a stir.. Now we can all go away and think about it all a little more, and hopefully learn from this experience.

    You know what may of been interesting also, is to have a name and circumstances of the family who lost their residence..

  • Hey everyone – I left a long (probably too long) response in the “dialogue” section but I wanted to thank you all for your comments and critique. Some of them are very helpful to me moving forward with this project! Good luck to everyone with their own photographic projects!.
    *as a side note I just want to say that several of the images that come up after the long abandoned homes ARE recent foreclosures in Oakland, CA. I researched them and visited them with a real estate agent. I gave the titles to Burn to publish with these works but they never got printed… But I do hear from you that they do not LOOK like foreclosures. I have photographed more homes recently in Las Vegas and Denver – newer structures with clear “foreclosure” signs and they will be added to the project.

  • David, how does one make only one post here, yet have the foresight to be able to answer your subsequent questions, before they are asked? I have no idea, so will simply break that rule.

    I read no “venom” above. If what people above wrote is considered “venom” by others, I’d humbly suggest they live very sheltered lives. And I add that photography will chew them up and spit them out.

    I literally burst out laughing when I read Eve say: One thing I just wanted to add as a closing is that a couple of you speak with such anger and “venom” as someone put and this really disturbs me.

    LOL!!! My goodness gracious, as auntie Mary used to say. What would Eve think when confronted with the type of outrage my photos evoke? Poor gal would have a stroke or something.

    And yes, I tend towards being just a wee bit dramatic. Spices things up, until people get all riled up over hurt feelings or some such.

    The strength of BURN is not just the photography you feature, some of which sucks. No, the strength is in the comments. Always interesting, always eye opening, no matter how, er, “venomous.”

    If I hurt anyone’s delicate feelings with the above, I apologize profusely in advance! ;-)

  • one question for eve: which is the audience you want to talk to with your photographs?

    coming from outside of the u.s., just looking at your work, i couldn’t say i understand, or i’m even interested in going deeper.. i do know about the foreclosure phenomenon that happens in your country, but without a bigger picture, without seeing these pictures in a contest i have no possibility to ‘see’ the picture, the connection. perhaps it’s just me being dense, without words this doesn’t work to me, and with your words i fear it doesn’t either, as i can’t find what you write within the essay, esp. if i should refer to this:

    “The recent foreclosure crises has spread like a pandemic across the country, wreaking havoc on cities and their neighborhoods and leaving abandoned homes to begin their process of neglect and decline. It is not unusual to walk down a street in some cities and find three or even more homes in a row that are abandoned and in some stage of foreclosure. This new landscape of empty homes brings with it higher rates of crime and the sad, derelict appearance of desertion.”

  • plain. there is no development of the theme, no dialect of related issues, no emotional or intellectual twist etc – it seems just like “Didactic Collection” of the same subject matter (the immediate one – the house for sale etc).

    now, the ultra-realistic Objective photography is a common style of work – the kind of attitude where photographer limits his/her involvement to just the selection of the frame, theme and objective representation of it. this type of “look” and aesthetics has become common even in the staged photography. but the truth is that very few bodies of work are interesting, most simply stay plain. one of my favorite examples of this objective-photography is Ed Bourtidsky. the thing is that in his work (and other few artists that do it interestingly), the final broad collection creates something new (synergy) – it really invokes great thoughts (that were not directly presented in each of photographs as motive and narrative).
    this doesnt happen here.

    in the overstaurated field of photography (art, news etc), one can find endless amount of “informative” material about almost any theme. i think an ambitious work (working on series or body of work is already a basic commitment) should have something beyond it.
    in making things more interesting, of course i do not suggest to creates a faked-drama, like lie or other type of manipulation in order to draw attention, like in news – that is ethically problematic for photo and truth lovers and simply kitsch and not seductive.
    personally, i would like to see more vibrations in the aesthetics, in emotional and intellectual engagement. + at least a hint of the person that stands behind the work (his/her state of mind), it gives a feeling of belongingness.

  • I love how you captured so much in these images. I’d love to see more. It reminds me of the photos I see from BeWise Building Consultants for their building inspections.

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