At Yellow Peril Gallery, foreclosed dreams (The Providence Phoenix, 04/10/13)
When Providence-based photographer David H. Wells set out to document the American foreclosure crisis, he started by snapping photos of workers as they cleaned repossessed houses in California’s central valley in 2009. As he began shooting, though, he found the objects in the houses more compelling than the workers. Since that first trip, his ever-expanding “Foreclosed Dreams” project — which opens at the Yellow Peril Gallery in Providence April 18 — has focused on items, not people. Sandals. Polaroids. Pacifiers. Bullet casings. Karate trophies. Broken chairs. Birthday cards. A crumpled American flag. A rain-soaked book called Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings. And of course the empty houses, themselves, with plywood-boarded windows and countertops dusted with plaster.
“I’m really trying hard to get what I think are the ghosts of the people who used to be in those houses,” Wells says of his excursions into more than 500 homes across 15 states, including Rhode Island. He was speaking from Arizona, where his work on “Dreams” continues. The tech-savvy Wells — who runs a free photo instruction podcast series and blog called “The Wells Point” — responded to my emailed questions by recording webcam videos of himself and summoning photographs onto the screen as he spoke. The interview has been edited and condensed.