I started my series, "Dream Deferred: The American Suburb in Transition," in 2008 when the Great Recession hit. Upscale suburban towns as well as inner cities were affected by the worst economic downturn the country had seen in years. As someone who lives in a suburb, I think I had the impression that we were escaping the ills that befall a lot of cities. But when the recession hit, that was not the case. I started noticing downtown storefronts that used to be continuously occupied, remaining empty. Gas stations and car dealers went out of business. So I began photographing these buildings with the belief that architecture plays an important role in conveying the health and spirit of a community.
Today, even though the economy has recovered, I am noticing that the trend of abandoned and empty buildings in the suburbs continues. The expansion of the suburbs that we experienced since the 1950s seems to have reached some kind of limit. What accounts for this? I have come to understand that for at least the last three years of this project, I have been observing what journalists now describe as the “Amazon Effect.” Online shopping has left America with far more buildings and storefronts than needed. Stand-alone stores are being shuttered, with no alternative use for most buildings. Malls and shopping centers go begging as traffic drops, tenants leave, lease rates collapse and the facilities end up wholly or nearly empty. Neighborhoods, and sometimes, entire towns, are being impacted in a negative way. The look, the idea, of what it means to live in a suburb in 21st century America, is changing.
In this series I hope to convey the sense of unease and desolation that results from living in a community where infrastructure is crumbling and buildings remain empty. I also want to challenge the view we Americans have of ourselves as living in a country that is always progressing, ever expanding. The reality in my photographs tells a different story.
The photographs in this series are captured digitally and presented as archival pigment prints in editions of 5. Print size is available up to 24 x 34".