Part spatial imagination and part a call to arms, HOME(less) is a photo document of individuals living on one main Los Angeles arterial on one weekend in January.
Architects Sofia Borges and Susan Nwankpa overlay their series of stark images with happy housing outcomes to humanise a forgotten class and raise awareness of their plight.
Line drawn typologies range from thatched-roof bungalows to A-frames and Midcentury Case Study Houses and tap into a longing for tranquility. This fleeting architecture reflects transience while signalling to the viewer that these are people with diverse aspirations, interests, and tastes. Personal effects and setting drove the architectural imagination.
The project has an air of spontaneity but is highly intentional. Borges and Nwankpa chose environment over portrait for a widened context that shows how the homeless blur public and private space in their quest for safety and sustenance.
LA has an estimated 25,000 homeless people on its streets. LA County counts 44,000. Both are up 12 percent from 2013.
‘If these people weren’t here, where would they be?’ ventures Nwankpa. If nothing else, that’s the question she hopes will lodge in viewers’ minds.
In Borges’ estimation, LA’s homeless are ‘urban ghosts’ confined to the general public’s peripheral vision. And architects are complicit.
‘This is commentary, not an architectural solution. Everyone’s doing slick work, but there’s avoidance of societal ills like homelessness [in the profession],’ says Borges. ‘Architects should take an oath to provide shelter.’
For sure, some architects have addressed inequities in their practice. This year’s Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena hangs his hat on low-cost social housing and David Adjaye has been a vocal proponent of designing homes and community facilities for the global masses not just the urban elite.
‘There’s talk of allocating big money to social housing in this emergency,’ Borges adds. ‘But none of it is fast enough.’
Tags: Los AngelesPhotographySofia Borges & Susan Nwankpa
Ian Spula is a freelance journalist covering architecture, design and property for Chicago Magazine, Dwell and The Spaces.
Tony Ward, The Figure. The photo sold at a Paris gallery for $18,000.
The Philadelphia photographer’s work runs the gamut from high art to low, from gallery to Bob Guccione and Penthouse Magazine. Sitting across the table from Tony Ward, I get the impression he has the confidence of a man whose ancestors follow him around everywhere he goes, except during moments of silence, his eyes share a melancholy and introspection he tightly controls; I suspect this recipe is a powerful source of seduction (the emotional tease).
If you’re an artist and have ever fantasized about traveling and exhibiting your work in galleries around the world, selling your art for thousands of dollars and having it in international museum collections while working on your fifth book in-between working on a constant stream of magazine spreads, then Tony Ward is living out your dreams in his life. How did that happen? What does it take to get that far? He talks about art patronage, feminism, space cakes, Thandie Newton and agents re-emerging to assist him in making the right introductions. He gives both the carnage and inspiration of art life, yearning for itself.
Ward will be showing some of his work at Penn, at the Fox Gallery, Feb. 17 to March 5.
Corey Armpriester-Germany has been very good to you, what is your relationship to the German people?
Tony Ward-It’s so true that Germany was a spring board for me. What happened was my agent in New York was Henrietta Brackman; she came out of retirement to help me. Henrietta introduced me to Ursula Kreis who introduced me to the right people at the right time, which resulted in my having shows in Hamburg, Berlin and other German cities.
CA-Are you surprised that your photograph titled “The Figure” sold for $18,000?
TW-I wasn’t really that surprised, only because I think it’s one of my best works; a gallery in Paris decided to invest in a print that warrants that kind of price, and a collector I met at the opening bought the piece.
CA-How important was Bob Guccione to your career? (Guccione is founder and once publisher of Penthouse magazine).
TW-Bob Guccione was pivotal because during 1995, I was producing a lot of free work, work for myself, and I was getting in a very creative zone. A friend of mine that had worked along side of Bob in the ’80s suggested I send Bob some work. I sent a portfolio to his house on 16 East 67th Street; after he saw those prints he decided to feature me in the September 1996 Anniversary Issue, 16 pages that launched my career in the adult industry. He was my patron of the arts for almost 10 years; I had an open checkbook to produce as much material as he could publish for many years. That’s what enabled me to travel to Europe so much.
CA-Do you think the grain in your photographs distinguishes your work from pornography?
TW-There’s certainly artifice built into the structure of my work to try to avoid the stigma of being labeled a pornographer, because the facts are that I was engaged in these kinds of shoots really looking for a means to express the art of it not the sex of it.
CA-Do you think the grain gets in the way of using the images as a masturbatory aid?
TW-I never considered my images to be masturbatory at all. In fact someone came up to me and said, “Tony I find your images masturbatory”; I was almost insulted or repulsed, that was the consequence of some of the work.
CA-Why is the strap-on so important?
TW-That was just a visual tool we used; it was one of the protocols.
CA-Using one word, describe the vagina.
CA-Is branding your name a dehumanizing act?
TW-No, I think branding a name is important for survival. It’s a business decision that most artists make at some point of their career. At the end of the day art is a form of branding. I’m encouraging young artist to be more self-sufficient and brand them selves via the internet.