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From Publishers Weekly
Using discarded scraps of wood, metal, plastic and any other available materials, formerly homeless New York men and women built improvised housing in the early '90s with care and a need for order, privacy and community. Morton (The Tunnel), a professor of art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, befriended some of them and documented their structures. The result is this haunting collection of 90 stark, sharply reproduced b&w photos, with captions by Morton, an introduction by housing critic and scholar Alan Trachtenberg, and commentary from the builders themselves. "If I don't do something here, my mind will die," says Hector A. of his Bushville cabin in the East Village. The homes at Bushville, "The Hill" and other areas, often under bridges or on abandoned piers, are shown with the wreaths and religious icons that often mark their entryways, and the pots, cookstoves, couches, beds and furniture drawn from a city full of discards. Since New York systematically bulldozed all of the camps shown (the last was demolished in 1996), Morton's book is an important testament to the will and ingenuity of their inhabitants. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Morton, a photographer published in many prominent magazines and newspapers, brought more than a camera and an artist's eye with her when she started visiting the shantytowns of New York City in 1989; she brought respect, compassion, and a sense of wonder. She also used a tape recorder to preserve the stories of the people she visited, straightforward tales of homelessness that remind readers of how precarious existence is for everyone. The men also talk about how they built their small, often... read more
Over a ten-year period, Margaret Morton documented the inventive ways in which homeless people in New York City created not only places to live but also communities that offer a sense of pride, place, and individuality.
Morton's camera reveals the ingenuity of the builders who constructed homes out of discarded materials, such as warehouse pallets, junked auto parts, and demolition scrap. Her luminous photographs illustrate the intrinsic social significance of housing, while bringing to light the determination and aesthetic sensibilities of people not commonly thought to possess either. Accompanied by compelling oral histories, the photographs in Fragile Dwelling raise serious questions yet unanswered about social policies that leave no room for self-made alternatives to traditional housing.