I started Neighborhood in June 2015. The idea took seed during my art residency in Luxembourg. As I explored the cities and villages, I couldn’t help but compare the neighborhoods to those in the U.S. The layout, the homes, the streets, and the people – all were so vastly different from what I knew.
I re-examined my previous work in light of these observations. Much of it focused on our personal spaces behind closed doors such as bedrooms and dining spaces. But the inside of our home can be very different from what we present on the outside for the world to see. We create a presentation to our liking, but we only have so much control beyond the little parcel that is our house, grass plot, or apartment stoop. Much of the presentation is beyond our reach – our neighbor’s lawn, city infrastructure, and existing structures and landscapes impact how others perceive the area outside our home. Additionally, beyond this neighbor-to-neighbor dynamic there is the over-arching umbrella of social expectations and what is acceptable that governs behavior from house/yard upkeep to quiet hours.
All of the portraits are taken at night or just before sunset for this is when perceptions of neighborhoods change. It is almost as if our neighborhood is an entirely different place at night than it is during the day. The artificial light at night both hides and illuminates the landscape simultaneously. The shadows are blinding and one can quickly be consumed with imaginative fear, anxiety, but also anonymity and even serenity.
This is what I want to explore in Neighborhood, the things beyond our control that we find curious, irritating, or admirable. The animal portraits are meant to balance the people’s portraits. Wildlife is an integral part of our neighborhood yet I find people hardly notice it because we spend so much time indoors and we have fashioned much of the environment that they inhabit. It has been both delightful, amusing and tricky to photograph them.
All images and text © Lois Bielefeld
By Lois Bielefeld
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