Foreclosure Photography

Abandoned

Today during my commute I listened to an NPR interview with Paul Reyes, author of Exiles in Eden, who was discussing the emergence of “foreclosure photography” during our housing crisis.

It isn’t often that I hear something new in this vein, so I was intrigued and wanted to delve into his writings and of course the photographs themselves. As someone who is inside the foreclosure process far too often and has shown foreclosure property to many buyers, this hit home.

For well over ten years I have been working with foreclosure properties in one capacity or another. When my mom still owned a real estate company, she was the Freddie Mac representative in Western MA and I worked to assist her with the properties. Our jobs included vacancy checks, “trash outs”, repairs, winterizations and re-keying. Usually the homes were emptied of anything of value (but still filled with trash), but sometimes there were homes left intact. It is spooky to find a home like this, as if the owners just stepped out to run an errand and will be right home, except they can’t get in because the locks have been changed.

There was this one property in particular that was filled with good furnishings and all the family mementos. I had to go through everything to take photos and inventory the house for the lender. At first I felt a bit awful doing this, as if I was a peeping tom, but then I started to feel the presence of the people and pieced together what I thought their story was. I felt very connected to them and it brought me some peace in the terrible process in which I had to participate. It is funny how things trigger memories, today’s NPR story brought my feelings in this home rushing back.

I wish I knew where the photos were that I took that day in their lovely home.

In listening to Paul Reyes today and then looking through the photographs he mentions in his blog post, I felt a strange connection. Not just to Mr. Reyes, but to the people who lived in these homes. That is, I presume, what the photographers were trying to drive home to the viewer. That we are connected, that people from all walks of life are impacted by the foreclosure crisis, that this could happen to us or someone we know.

Foreclosure statistics show that one in five homes are foreclosed upon. This epidemic is real and it pays to be empathetic to those going through the very stressful process. I hope that if you are a homeowner in Western MA who is faced with potential foreclosure that you will reach out to me and let me help if I can.

photo courtesy of James Jordan on flickr.com

3 Responses to Foreclosure Photography

  1. leslie – great topic! I’ve been working on a blog post in a similar vain that is titled “I am foreclosure, and so are you” and you just took a lot of the thoughts I wanted to include and shared it so well. I’ll have to dig up the Reyes piece. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Lesley: This is a wonderful, thoughtful post. So many times, people jump to conclusions and assume that those who have been hit by foreclosure are bad people, that they are irresponsible in some way. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In most cases, these are real families with real jobs, love for one another. To say that each of us should have some empathy and sensitivity to their situations is a gross understatement; it’s something that could happen to any of us at any time. I look forward to the rest of the posts in this series; your writing conveys very well your feelings and caring about all of this. Thank you for sharing.

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