Photo project: Our World InsideOut

While looking through my Google Reader RSS feed the other day, I came across a post by Photo District News (PDN) entitled “Our World InsideOut” that immediately caught my eye. The images they featured were at once saturated with colour and full of life, but also somehow desolate and a bit creepy…

Wanting to find out more, I read the blurb and discovered that they form part of a project by young and talented photographer, Alyssa Miserendino, to document abandoned (or foreclosed) homes in Chicago, Brazil and New Orleans.

According to the PDN site it all started when she decided to take photographs of her own abandoned childhood home in 2004 and then developed into something bigger in the aftermath of the 2009 economic crash when hundreds of people faced displacement and loss.

She says, “I created the imagery with the hope that this project will incite a visual, global dialogue concerning the used and unused resources; thus inspiring change. It touches on the many levels of humanity and one of the most sacred places for us: home.”

I contacted her to ask if I could post some of her thought-provoking images here on Gypsified, and she was even kind enough to answer a few questions from her iPad while on the go. Thanks so much, Alyssa!

Sooooooooo, take a look at the images below, and then read what she has to say about them.

1. What inspired you to start this project?

Our World Insideout is a derivative of my thesis from undergrad, called INside OUT. The thesis, from 2004 is a series of images from the home I primarily grew up in. The images focused on the picture windows of the then empty house after my father disappeared, and our house went up for auction.

In 2008, I had returned from living in South America, struggled to find meaning in my work, and felt an emotional connection with what was happening as our economy started to tank. The emotional connection to people loosing their homes was familiar to me.

I started in Chicago documenting what was left behind in homes in foreclosure & shortsale. A year later, it morphed into a larger project concerning our resources surrounding home and stories of people and their relationship between economy & home, from around the globe, starting with Brazil and then New Orleans.

2. Experiencing your childhood home as a neglected and abandoned house must have been rather odd… can you describe some of the thoughts, feelings and sensations you had while photographing it?

Misplaced feelings of confusion. Closure vs. unsettled feelings. And “what was I doing?” is what came to mind as I photographed the home I grew up in that was now empty.

My mom was the inspiration to photograph the home. I didn’t understand why she was asking me to photograph it. I don’t believe she even envisioned what I was about to or could do to document and object that had so many mixed and sad emotions tied up into it.

I borrowed a friend’s Hasselbald film camera (the same type of camera I use today for Our World Insideout) and drove from Chicago to Milwaukee and started photographing only the picture windows. I had no clue what I was doing – a testament to how most of my conceptual work starts – from a feeling of intuition with out a conscious why.

3. You call Our World Insideout a life long project. What does this mean to you?

Our World Insideout will continue to blossom, and I hope to travel the world creating a personal and important dialogue about how we as a globe envision home & the ramifications each economy plays out in relationship to real estate.

I see it as a series of books, and one day volumes of books that required no language on a very basic level. The written word is there for enhancement. I’ve recently been inspired by a painter to somehow include these stories of some of the people I’ve captured.

4. What have the offshoots of the project been? I see there’s a DVD, a book and an upcoming overhaul of a popular squatted building in Brazil… Can you tell us a bit more about each of these (and any other additional ‘offshoots’ that may have developed in the mean time)?

A book of the Chicago series was printed and is available through the studio. There are plans to have a book represent each city or country, so that they become a collector’s series. Brazil and New Orleans have been formally released, so this will be the next step for these two projects.

At the moment a full length documentary on the Brazil work is in the final stages of post production, as the result of an incredible producer and many talented people in Brazil.

The collaboration between Chiq da Silva and the studio is just starting to blossom. We’ve applied for a 30 thousand dollar grant to project my images and also hold a week long session of informational meeting with city planers, architects, and residents on and in one of the most popular squatted building in Rio de Janeiro. The goal of this week long event is to raise the remaining money needed to overhaul the building to safe living conditions according to Chiq da Silva’s plan. This is the exciting aspect of the project for me – it helps root the project in a circular motion, bringing the work back to where it belongs: in the city in which it was created, & inspiring change.

My dream, is to see the limited edition prints in a museum with a portion of the sale going back to the person, group or estate photographed.

5. Sure you must have some interesting tales from all the places you’ve photographed… any particularly special/creepy/eye-opening/life-changing/sad/happy? Tell us about it, please!

One interesting story is that of the image with a tree growing through the second floor of a beautiful mid century home.

The house has been abandoned for over 15 years, and when we (myself and the video production team) entered it while it began to rain, the outside became inside. Holes where light fixtures once hung now dripped like music with the rain pattering down on the leaves.

The house remains empty because of a loop hole in the real estate laws in Brazil. The last owner, a woman with her only heir being her daughter, died in the home. It was three days after her death, until she was found. Her daughter was unable to take over the property since he was in a mental facility permanently.

There is no recourse for recycling the home back into the market – no estate owner, and it doesn’t go to the city or state. The house remains in this limbo that is unimaginable as you see it from the street, flanked by multi million dollar homes.

There are many more stories, I hope to incorporate into a large volume book someday.

6. About you: Where are you from? How old? Little luxuries you love in life?

I was born and raised in Milwaukee Wi, currently reside in Chicago IL, and i am 30 years old. I really enjoy traveling and meeting new people by striking up conversations with strangers. In fact, I just met a man on the street tonight from Morocco.

My favorite is to wander alone in a strange place with a camera. I adore taking baths, eating fresh food straight from the ground, and spending time with the ocean. synchronicity is my favorite experience.

To see more of these awesome pictures visit http://www.ourworldinsideout.com/ or the InsideOut portfolio page on her website.

And to see of her other work visit the Alyssa Merendino website.

All images © Alyssa Merendino

One thought on “Photo project: Our World InsideOut

  1. Fascinating project, very inspiring… I often discard ideas and projects because they don’t appear to have a specific motive at first, but that regularly proves to be the fertile ground true creativity needs to develop into something more.

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