I moved into my new apartment in March 2005. This was the first time I would be living alone. At first my checks were payable to Raford management but within a year I was making them out to Big Sky Properties. Big Sky brought changes to the apartment. A new roof was installed, new statues arrived in the courtyard, and the owner told me he had a local artist design new security bars for the windows. My toilet got fixed immediately whereas before it took months.
Long-term residents began moving out. In the span of just a couple weeks, three apartments became available. I noticed that while my needs were being met, another families' carpet had not been changed in 10 years. The residents who moved out had been paying one-third of the rent of what new tenants pay. I realized my own future in the apartment could change just as quickly as the residents who were being forced out. I was compelled to start documenting these changes.
I posted notes on every tenant's door asking if I could photograph them and their apartment. I included my name, apartment number, and phone number. Nobody contacted me. Nothing worked until I decided to approach one of my neighbors directly. Once I photographed one family, people began to be interested in what I was doing. From there I met with more tenants and began to build relationships.
One of my neighbors, Angela, is about to be evicted. I learned this when I went over to her apartment to bring copies of the photos I took of her family. While I was there she explained that the owner was trying to evict her family. She told me he wanted to pay her family $1500 to ensure this would happen. Angela showed me photos she had taken over the years of rats, water damage, and pipes that were not in the walls correctly. After listening to her, I invited her to my apartment to show her a website that I thought could help. As she got up to leave, I reached out to console her. We hugged and she put her head to my chest. Angela continues to resist the landlords' efforts to evict her family. Through inspections and court dates, she is doing all she can.
The neighborhood is shifting and will continue to be reinvented. Artists are often used by real estate interests as the vanguard of gentrification. But as an artist, I feel it is imperative to show what is happening.