There is a black and white photograph hanging in my home that was made over 80 years ago by Marion Post Wolcott, a photographer working for the Farm Security Administration. Wolcott was one of eleven documentarians (including luminaries Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans) dispatched by the Roosevelt administration to record the effects of the Great Depression on rural poverty across the country. Because of their efforts, the Federal government was able to direct aid and assistance to where it was most needed.
This classic documentary photograph depicting a simple interior space shows us its subject as it is, leaving judgement, opinion or response to the viewer. An integral artifact of the New Deal, images like Wolcott’s speak to the power of a simple photograph to communicate down through the decades and to change the world.
In our attempt to create an honest, straightforward account of what have proven to be surprisingly diverse environments, Wendy and I made the conscious decision to photograph these spaces in the same purely documentary fashion. We chose not to editorialize by rearranging, staging, relighting, or digitally manipulating as we might for an architectural assignment.
Our photographs are also intentionally devoid of people, both out of respect for privacy and to show the spaces as they present themselves to their visitors. They appear here in all their professionally designed splendor, institutional utility or cobbled together disorder. Their only commonality remains their shared purpose.
During one of our site visits, a kind hospital chaplain repeated the same sentiment a number of times: “You are so fortunate to see these different spaces as they are, and to learn about them”. Even without having seen any of the images, it was as if he was joining our project vicariously, marveling with us as each new tucked away sanctuary quietly revealed itself.
We are fortunate indeed.
-- Randall Armor