Susan Simone : docu-Art Photography

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Habitat for Humanity

Artist Statement

I had heard a lot about Habitat for Humanity, but I had never actually seen a project in action. In 1998, I was invited to bring my camera and follow the building of eleven new homes in a sub-division called New Homestead Place on Rogers Road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I had just finished a photography project documenting the history of the Northside neighborhood in Chapel Hill – an historically African American community struggling to maintain affordable family homes in an area where student rentals are creating a lucrative real estate market. I was also beginning a new project about the emerging Hispanic community, another group of workers whose housing options in the area seemed to be limited to poorly maintained apartments or mobile homes. The idea of following the Habitat home building for a year was a natural complement to the work I had already done. I had documented the problem; now I would have a chance to document a solution.

I began working in the fall of 1998 when New Homestead Place was nothing more than a single white sign announcing “Celebration 2000” planted in the middle of a field surrounded by a few young trees. This project is the story of what I have learned about Habitat and the people who taught me. It includes photographs of the families who have built their homes in this field on Rogers Road, the partners and volunteers who have helped them, and the staff and supporters of Habitat for Humanity.

In my photographic work, I want to convey the spirit of the process. While I have tried to be inclusive, to show all of the stages and aspects of the Celebration 2000 project, I am more interested in capturing the feel of the work-site, the fundraisers, and the committee meetings. When you have finished looking at the photographs I want you to feel as if you personally have been out there, building a house, meeting a Habitat Family, working with a Habitat family, or becoming a Habitat family.

Habitat for Humanity is about Humanity. I hope that my photographic compositions will show you that this is true.