Seeing the social layers in the foreclosure crisis through a photography exhibit

A new photography exhibit at the Argus Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan takes a unique look at the foreclosure crisis:

Sociology, economics, and ultimately, autobiography, are the featured artistic elements in Charles J. Mintz’s “Every Place (I have ever lived)” at the Argus I Building’s second-story museum.

Subtitled “The foreclosure crisis in twelve neighborhoods,” this Cleveland-based photographer’s mixed-media investigation into his personal history—as told through a dozen color foreclosed dwellings in the vicinities where he’s lived—is touching and telling in equal measures…

“Each work,” Mintz tells us in his gallery statement, “is a 4’ x 4’ sheet of raw plywood with two photographs that are printed on fabric. The ‘inside’ photograph is screwed in place. The top image has been made into a window shade that pulls down over the first…

“Maps on the side pieces show where you are in my personal journey. In addition, there are charts of both the changes in median family income between the time I lived there and now (based upon the 2000 census) and the changes in racial mix between then and now (based upon the 2010 census).”…

Even as the economic and sociological demographics do their part in Mintz’s story, he makes it clear that he believes race and financial position are ultimately relative to the journey. The story might have differed at another time, but from mid- to late-20th century, Mintz seeks to build a case that our American commonalities are more tightly bound than we might otherwise expect.

It is one thing to see the numbers about foreclosures, such as the fact that the foreclosure rate in Illinois is still rising, and another to look at how this affects communities and individuals within them. What sounds particularly interesting to me about this exhibit is that this isn’t just about one person. For example, in political debates and speeches, we tend to hear stories about individuals or families which are meant to put a “human face” on the larger issues. But, through connecting individuals, communities, and larger social forces, such as the artist Mintz explaining his personal experiences as embedded in communities as well as race and socioeconomic status, we can better view and understand the multiple levels of foreclosures and how different actions at each level might be needed.

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