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Foreclosures by Bruce Gilden.
November 7, 2008 4:49 AM   Subscribe

Foreclosures. A photo essay by Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden.

The essay has audio, as does the you tube video of Gilden street shooting in New York. You need to watch the video of him working on the street, just to be impressed at how he doesn't get punched.
posted by chunking express (35 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love the youtube video; I remember when WNYC ran those 'street shots' segments earlier this year. It is amazing he doesn't get beaten. I think that's NYC. Folks in other cities are more likely to acknowledge surprise.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:33 AM on November 7, 2008


Well that was a helluva way to start a Friday! Incredibly sad - like seeing 21st Century dust bowl photos.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:41 AM on November 7, 2008



Well that was a helluva way to start a Friday! Incredibly sad - like seeing mediocre, yet sensationalistic photos in a cliche reinforcing terrible Flash interface.
posted by sfts2 at 5:53 AM on November 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


Her kids were both kidnapped? Independently? On separate occassions?

Da hell?
posted by the latin mouse at 5:57 AM on November 7, 2008


Yes you're so retrendy coot-ittle-oo still shooting on TX and using greasepen on contact sheet and someone just graduated from Adobe Fuck-User-UI school butOh fuck just can I please see the photographs with a NEXT button interface?

No? Well, eat shit and die in a fire then. LOSER. (toomuchcoffeeagain())
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:16 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of course they're sensationalistic photos - they're of peoples homes after foreclosure. As for cliche, that might be, I don't have many other foreclosure photo essays to compare this one to. As for mediocre, I was quite taken by the quality of the photos. After I watched it I was thinking about the photos and narrative, so I guess that means I didn't have any issues with the flash interface.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:18 AM on November 7, 2008


Wow, this is awesome. Thank you.
posted by lunit at 6:21 AM on November 7, 2008


I'm in the camp that doesn't like the format.. I like to examine photos, not have them arbitrarily flashed in front of me....

Contact sheets? really?

The meaning of the photos was lost in the interface...
posted by HuronBob at 6:30 AM on November 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh wow, I just watched that youtube video. I am not a violent person, but if some jackass in a smarmy photographer's vest swooped into my face and snapped a shot, he's getting a punch in the dick. AND I'll pull out his film.
posted by echo target at 6:31 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama can fix this.
posted by gman at 6:45 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama can punch this guy?
posted by Kikkoman at 6:48 AM on November 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


For the last eight years, this man has not been punched in the dick. Obama promises CHANGE!
posted by echo target at 6:59 AM on November 7, 2008


punch him and redo the user interface, I heard.
posted by xbonesgt at 6:59 AM on November 7, 2008


Slack-go-go, I hope you didn't mistake my stealing you post lead-in personally, it just captured my thought perfectly, and after this week, I need the help. Also, my comments were directed not so much at the photos. I thought the choice of topic was sensationalistic, not a terrible crime but its just too easy. Its like paparazzi. My cliche comment was more towards the idea of 'good photographers too often use crummy Flash interfaces,' not that the photos were cliche in some way.
posted by sfts2 at 7:01 AM on November 7, 2008


Wow - that guy is kind of an ass, but his pictures are interesting. I was just wondering about what right people have to "their image" - I'm hesitant about taking pictures of people because they wonder what I'm doing, and I assumed I need some signed release form. Ditto on the annoying flash-based web-display. I was hoping for a flash gallery, but this is annoying. Again, good pictures, bad structure with no ability to pause on one photo.

And this isn't a dustbowl situation - 1 in 64 homes forclosed isn't quite the same as a man-made ecologic disaster. I'm not trying to bash you for your statement, just clarifying that the dust bowl was pretty epic on many levels, while this is a huge human issue. People can still live in Florida and California, but not in the lifestyle they wanted or where they wanted.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:03 AM on November 7, 2008


I agree the flash interface is kind of silly, but that's how it goes. Magnum is trying their hand at blogging again, and this time around seem to be doing a better job at it.
posted by chunking express at 7:04 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


sfts2 - I liked the stealing of my lead-in, it's a gimmick I employ myself. I did go back a second time to take another look at some of the photos, which I guess would support the argument that the Flash interface potentially takes away from appreciation of the photos. In this case, since the audio also hooked me as apart of the cohesive presentation, it didn't stand out as a problem to me. But I have abandoned plenty of other photo sites that took the control of the pace to see the pictures out of my hands, so I see your point.

filthy light thief -When I said "...like seeing 21st Century dust bowl photos" I was more referring to the presentation of the pictures themselves. I didn't mean to imply these foreclosures compare even remotely in scale to that era. But looking at many of these pictures, I was reminded of some of those original FSA pictures. But i see that I sort of bunched up two thoughts.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:18 AM on November 7, 2008


you'd need a mortgage to take one of bruce's photo classes - $1500 for 3 days.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:35 AM on November 7, 2008


People can still live in Florida and California, but not in the lifestyle they wanted or where they wanted.

But that's the problem, filthy light thief, they can't live there. None of those houses were McMansions - they were what would have been considered average lower middle class housing ten years ago and ten years ago, they probably sold for about half or less than half of what these people bought them for. I've heard first hand accounts of this process in Florida and I've watched it happening on a slightly smaller scale here in western North Carolina, where housing prices doubled, tripled and quadrupled almost overnight. At the same time, wages either stagnated or actually fell: I don't know anyone who is making four times what they were making in 1998, do you? And yet the house I live in, which I'm trying to buy for around 160K (cheap as hell in Asheville!) sold for 100K eight years ago.

That rise in prices put owning a house out of realistic reach for a huge chunk of middle class America. Yet not only is it still the American dream (and with good reason; it's been the standard method of building wealth and maintaining economic status in this country since before WWII) it was being heavily and intensively marketed to just that group - the lower middle and middle middle class - in the early 00s with the results that we've seen in the last year. The woman (with the two kidnapped kids and, yeah, she might not perhaps be the most credible witness I ever saw either) said that she and her then husband bought their house for $180,000 and their mortgage was over $2000 a month. Of course they couldn't pay it. Now, yes, they shouldn't have gone in thinking that they could pay it but on the other hand, what else was out there for less? Not a lot, is my guess. Possibly about nothing.

The housing crisis is about a lot more than just defaulted mortgages and money - it's about the extreme and increasing gap between the cost of housing and the average income of the middle and lower middle class. These people got caught in that gap, not necessarily because they were greed pigs who wanted more house than they could afford or because they were looking to flip (I have a special place in hell reserved for flippers when I get to be Queen of the Galaxy) but because the cost of housing - all housing - rose astronomically in the last decade and wages did not.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:42 AM on November 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


If you're taking photos in a public place, you can take a photo of anyone out there and have the person who cock-punches you for it arrested. Later, that person would probably be convicted of assault and nothing would happen to yourself (unless you were seriously obnoxious and ventured into the realm of assault yourself). Oh, you could be sued for using the person's image, but he or she would lose. Only if you plan on using the photo in an advertisement, say, would you need a model release.
posted by raysmj at 7:42 AM on November 7, 2008


He reminded me of that blue sock recently featured on the blue. The essay was quite interesting, but I'm not very fond of his really straightforward way to talk to people. I love photography, but taking pictures of people always seemed a magical craft to me. It borders on witchcraft sometimes.
posted by nicolin at 7:59 AM on November 7, 2008


I couldn't watch it all. Can someone tell me if any of those foreclosures happened to any Flash developers?
posted by paddysat at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


That rise in prices put owning a house out of realistic reach for a huge chunk of middle class America. Yet not only is it still the American dream (and with good reason; it's been the standard method of building wealth and maintaining economic status in this country since before WWII)

You can't have it both ways though. Either a house is an investment that will rise faster than inflation, or it's a commidity that holds it's value in line with inflation. Saying that we need to keep housing prices low to help people use real estate as a major investment is a catch-22, because the only reason it's been such a good investment is because prices have tended to go up at a rate approaching returns from other major investment options.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:01 AM on November 7, 2008


Slack-a-gogo - point taken. The images are pretty desperate, considering they were taken in the middle of an otherwise active neighborhood. But this has been happening in the mid-west for quite a while. There are strings of towns that were thriving in my grandparents' time, but are now depopulated, with dying main streets and neighborhoods full of abandoned houses. But this is an issue of no reason to live there - the jobs aren't there any more.

mygothlaundry - you're right, I commented from my local view, not . My two first-hand experiences are growing up in Santa Barbara, where in 2006, only six percent of residents could afford a median-value house, and the median house price was over $1,000,000 in 2004. There were houses that I would consider starter family homes selling for over a million dollars - 2, maybe 3 bed, 1 or 2 bath, in a nice neighborhood on quarter-acre lots, if not smaller. I know I can never move back there, without getting a much higher paying job. Now I live in San Luis Obispo, where the house prices are about half that, but still beyond most people. From my vantage point, there has always been somewhere in California that's more affordable for me to live. I've been fortunate enough to find places to live in more desirable locations.

raysmj - thanks for that info!

nicolin - part of the witch-craft comes from the spirit of the shaman, and the dress. Dress in that traditional photographer mesh vest with many pockets, and be obvious about what others think of your actions. It seems my error was trying to be discreet in photographing people. I need a bigger camera and a hand-held flash, not stealth.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:05 AM on November 7, 2008


Being stealthy when snapping photos comes off creepy. That said, there is a middle ground between that and what Gilden does on the street.
posted by chunking express at 9:08 AM on November 7, 2008


Man, the haterade for the flash interface is strong here. I don't think it would have been half as powerful without the audio to go with it, which wouldn't have happened without flash.

Also, photographers are kind of sensitive about their image rights, and they don't want people stealing their shit or fucking it up with watermarks. So get used to it.
posted by fungible at 9:23 AM on November 7, 2008


Wonderful. Yeah, b&w makes it more starkers. I love photographing abandoned homes. I always wonder why people would up and leave. When it's blocks and blocks of homes, that has quite a
different effect. Then to interview some of the previous owners, maybe I'm glad I don't know why some up and left, 'cause it's kind of sad.

Gotta agree with the guy who thanked the [Bush] government for being so efficient.
The UTube video is funny. 'Hey, she smiled at you'. 'Yeah, that's bad'.

I take photos in the street. But I don't use flash and hold the little Canon G-III QL range finder by my side — not because I may run into some of you punch 'em in the dick jerks [ever been charged with assault yet? Didn't think so- keep talking trash], but I don't want the deer in the headlights kind of shot nor posed ones. You get some great results. Yep, film, not digital. Remember range finders sonny? HAH./

All those foreclosures, truly sad, America. Gad I hate Bush. Always have and now you have the results. Just fucking great. Too bad he and his pals won't go to jail for fleecing the country. Ur fucking terrists are the domestic kind. Been there in the White House all along. Fooled ya twice. Apparently.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:32 AM on November 7, 2008


Things we need to stop doing if we're hopeful that the election of Obama will lead to a change of direction in the world:
  • Paying $200,000 for a one-floor shack
  • Remortgaging shack
  • Kidnapping children
  • Running away with younger women
  • Running away with older men who don't have jobs
  • Cutting our hair like Travis Bickle when we're 57 years old
  • Going shirtless
  • esp. Going shirtless while overweight
  • Tattooing L O V E and H A T E on our knuckles
  • Allowing the wealthy and the privileged to run games that enable them to pillage every stick of value
I'll admit to here blaming the victim too much given the depth of the collapse that is happening, but a lot of us (myself included, although maybe in a less dramatic way than some of these people) need to learn to stop being our own worst enemies, quit living trainwrecks. No one can just sweep in and save us.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2008


I can't believe any of those people were able to get those kinds of mortgages in the first place.
posted by fshgrl at 12:05 PM on November 7, 2008


I wonder if we can do some sort of nationwide Habitat for Humanity type sweat-equity arrangement for some of these abandoned homes; you move in and take care of it, you build towards ownership at some reasonable rent-to-own rate. Not that there's anything wrong with renting.

We've never owned a home, and I always used to wonder if we were being "immature" or throwing our money away, but hell, I was never so glad to be a renter as I am now. When we moved into our current rent house, the lady down the street was having a garage sale prior to her foreclosure going through; her husband had left her and her teenage son and she had a disability and couldn't work. I wonder where she lives now. Her house is still empty, and so is one on the other end of our street. The bank comes by to mow the weeds now and then, but there are never any lookers.
posted by emjaybee at 12:31 PM on November 7, 2008


burnmp3s writes "You can't have it both ways though. Either a house is an investment that will rise faster than inflation, or it's a commidity that holds it's value in line with inflation. Saying that we need to keep housing prices low to help people use real estate as a major investment is a catch-22, because the only reason it's been such a good investment is because prices have tended to go up at a rate approaching returns from other major investment options."

You can see how that's not sustainable, though, right? Because if housing rises faster than income, eventually, housing has to come down to match income.

The money put into a house isn't just cash, either. I never knew people to think of their house as an investment when I was growing up in the '70s, but in the long term it's better than renting because of the equity gained. Here's a quote I pulled after a really brief search: "Financial advisers argue that your house shouldn’t be included in the calculation of your net wealth because your house does not generate any return on the investment. In other words, your home provides security but not an income. You can’t eat your house."
posted by krinklyfig at 1:45 PM on November 7, 2008


in the long term it's better than renting because of the equity gained.

Not everywhere.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:01 PM on November 7, 2008


in the long term it's better than renting because of the equity gained.

It's more complicated than that. When evaluating the decision to buy a home one will occupy as an investment decision, I'm not sure how useful the rent vs. buy distinction is.

Look at it this way. If you buy a house as an investment, there are basically two ways to make money off of it: (i) through market appreciation, followed by a sale, and (ii) by renting it out.

If you buy a house as an investment and then live in it, you've foregone the rents you could've received if you didn't live in it. At the same time, you've avoided paying rent on another dwelling.

This isn't necessarily a bad deal, but you've hardly managed to economically avoid paying rent. You're not writing rent checks, but you were only able to get into this position by paying a lot of money for property with the potential to generate rental income and then forgoing that potential.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:39 PM on November 7, 2008


"This isn't necessarily a bad deal, but you've hardly managed to economically avoid paying rent. You're not writing rent checks, but you were only able to get into this position by paying a lot of money for property with the potential to generate rental income and then forgoing that potential."

As long as the house doesn't fall in value, buying will beat renting sooner or later. When you move from a mortgaged property, assuming the price stayed constant, at the very least you get all those mortgage payments back less the interest you paid to the bank. When you move from a rented apartment, you get nothing back.
posted by kavasa at 5:31 PM on November 7, 2008


As long as the house doesn't fall in value, buying will beat renting sooner or later.

That's actually not clear at all to me.

Wouldn't you have to compare the P/E ratio of the house to other investments? Look at it this way: if an alternative investment would yield more than the sum of the rental income plus appreciation on the house, then you'd be better off letting someone else buy the house, renting it from them, and buying the alternative investment yourself.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:35 PM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


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