- Posted February 18, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
What’s left behind.
I’ve been working on a photo documentary of the crumbling remains of Southern vernacular architecture in rural Alabama and in an area of which my family’s tree is deeply rooted. Vernacular is a term that describes a style of construction using local resources and also reflects the culture and history of its inhabitants.
Although I live in a much different lifestyle and home than that of my ancestors, I can remember visiting beloved relatives who lived their entire lives in houses in which they could see their chickens running under the cracks in the floorboards. Their homes were built with just one layer of wood siding for walls and no insulation or Sheetrock to protect them from the harsh elements of summer or winter. You can still see a few of these decaying stick structures along the highways and nestled in thickets of brushwood in the middle of large cotton fields.
Already aware of a few locations of this type of architecture, and with the suggestions of friends, I set out with my camera and discovered something unexpected, a sort of a time capsule. Most people think of these rotting structures as “tear-downs” and have already removed everything from inside. But I found buried in a jungle of privet bushes a couple of houses frozen in time and filled with the belongings of the people who once lived there, as if one day they just walked away and never looked back. These possessions are not just unwanted trash of a poor person’s effects but the corroding representation of the life of a human being; someone who once lived under this collapsing roof.
I came face to face with something totally unexpected and it has changed my view of the clan to which I belong. This project has made me think differently about my heritage and helped me realize a greater respect for a tribe of people who had faced daily hardships. They had to grow and can their own foods, stitch scrapes of worn-out cloths together to make blankets just so they could survive the bitter winter nights and cook on wood burning stoves. This experience has made me even more grateful for where I am now and who I am. I also hope these images are provocative enough to cause the viewers to contemplate,,,”what icons will we leave behind and will they inspire others?”