“So we are looking at this area, and this guy comes out with a machete and a bowl of cereal.”
“What? I thought it was just a bowl of cereal.”
“Nope – he also had a machete.” And thus goes the story of how we met our first contact.
- Location of Interest: a property simply known as “Joe Joe’s Camp” on Google maps
- Project Goal: create a living room setting outdoors
- Estimated Duration: three days
- Anticipated Cost: $300
Three weeks later, I stood under the trees with my guy friends. Armed with yellow gloves and pink for myself, we stared at the tires, shopping carts, candy wrappers and Bratz dolls littering the ground. Clearly, this had meant home to somebody and the thought of it was disheartening.
The further we got, though- the darker items became. Bio hazardous waste, stolen goods, records of criminal activity and the worst- a graphic message written on two halves of paper with the words “Dear visitor, please read”…
We piled as much as we could away from the center; there weren’t enough bags to scoop it up, there wasn’t enough daylight to try. Thankfully, the spot where I wanted to set up was void of rubbish. The rest of it we would just have to deal with… at five forty-five in the morning.
At that time, various living room props were brought and set up at Joe Joe’s camp. They’d been acquired from all sorts of different places. The first was a vintage television collected from a neighbor’s yard. It was this item that I’d centered the vision for Project [abitazione]. The boat, lamp and memory box were borrowed from friends’ storage units. The couch and typewriter came from the local RE:Live Thrift.
We met up with our model later that morning. She prepared for the shoot on location with a floor length mirror we’d provided. Originally there would have been a professional hair and makeup person available but do to a miscommunication, the model and I did our best to recreate the look ourselves. There were a couple issues trying to reflect light into the space, but after bit, we kinda figured it out. Lacking the 5 in 1 reflector, we used the mirror instead.
We tried to portray two story lines within the project, the first being a pensive writer and the latter being more of an army wife longing to hear from her loved one. I incorporated the writing theme due to the model being a creative story writer herself. We actually met during a screenwriting class and I felt that adding her personality into the shoot really brought the images to life.
After the shoot, the most important props were gathered. I started putting up crime scene tape around the furniture but was reprimanded by one of the assistants. Ended up stuffing it in the memory box which was hidden next to the TV. My point with the tape was supposed to ward off people from messing up the set. Anyways, we were gone for a few hours and upon returning – the memory box was gone. The rest of the set remained untouched.
There were more people available for the second half of the project. A local business was using the set for an advertisement project. They ran electricity through and having a working living room lamp to challenge the night was the coolest thing ever! The rest of the evening was a blitz of filming for the advertisement and doing doughnuts in the dirt lot.
The final day, furniture was returned to storage units and thrift store. Afterwords, the guys and I stared at the mess as it dared us. We spent several more hours loading bags, tires and broken things onto the truck. These were turned in at a local dump.
In the end, one of the locals came by. He explained that our first contact was no longer in the area. We also found out more information about those who used to live where we’d just cleaned up. It was a relief to find out that there where no children involved despite the toys that had been left behind. Our second contact and his dog moved in that afternoon.
Later that day my dad asked “was it worth it?” It took a while before I could say “I’m not sure”. For a long time, I was under the impression that the project had failed. Didn’t even edit the photos until months later when the model asked to use them as Christmas pictures. It’s it’s been over a year now; enough time to reflect on the outcome.
Initially, the project was supposed to kill two or three birds with one stone, so to speak. Not only was it creative portraiture but also a set for the local business’ advertisement and a community service with the clean up and all. It was not an overzealous goal but I was disappointed that our efforts where not as organized and impactful as desired. The final cost totaled several hundred dollars. The rental of the U-Haul alone was enough to enduce a mini heart attack. Although the project was mostly sponsored, I’m troubled over the costs involved and whether or not the pictures alone where worth that amount. An investment of some sort would have have been nice but I haven’t figured out how to do that sort of thing yet.
The editing process did bring bit of contentment. The images are not bad at all but they left me wanting more; a series of pictures depicting, a kitchen, a bathroom, a bed room in the great outdoors. They also left me wondering how it could be done again in a more productive and organized matter.