Upon foreclosure, people leave behind more than a house. They leave a home, and the remnants of a life, littering the carpet with a trail of items abandoned in the end to the bank, the lender, the creditor, to be dismantled and tossed away in preparation for the next occupants.

What makes people leave behind what they once deemed worth hoarding, even treasuring? In the abandoned space between four walls lies a metaphor for loss, and for what we as a society value. Especially as our economy falters and Americans are forced to abandon habits of materialism on credit, the objects and spaces we leave behind in crisis speak to who we are and where we are going.

The photo essay I have submitted for the Dorothea Lange Fellowship represents my first photos that turn a lens on life through its remnants. I encountered these images in Fall 2008 in the foreclosed home of an immigrant family in a working class neighborhood in Vallejo, Calif.

I began this project in September 2008 and plan to complete it by December 2009. I propose to expand my scope beyond the Bay Area to document homes in other parts of rural and urban California hit hard by foreclosure.

The final result will be a series of images documenting three additional foreclosed homes, each offering a distinct window into the lives of its occupants, the things they valued, and the choices they made when leaving those lives and things behind. The series will be printed and bound in a book, as well as reproduced online as an intimate package of documentary audio-slideshows, based on the sounds I capture as an audio record of each space.

Rhyen Coombs
November 2008