This project is a visual ethnography photographic study of homeless camps in the Front Range urban corridor of Colorado from an archaeological perspective. I first encountered homeless camps during archaeological surveys of urban areas in the late 1990s. Homelessness is a serious social issue, particularly in times of great economic disparity between the rich and the poor. Additionally, homelessness does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone, and it affects everyone. It does not recognize sex, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc. Part of my inspiration for starting the Traces of Home project came from the fact that after being unexpectedly laid-off from work, our family was struggling economically, and we received several forms of public assistance. I realized that we were perilously close to not being able to pay for food and shelter. When I started back to work doing archaeological surveys and encountering homeless camps, it was suddenly more personal. Before formally starting to document the camps, I researched ethics guidelines from the American Anthropological Association and recalled my basic ethnographic training. I also met with staff from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to get advice on protocol. I carefully considered how to conduct my project in a respectful and sensitive fashion.
There are places that exist in a liminal state between the real and the imagined - where human and natural environments blend, and time ebbs and flows without order. This work is an extension of my studies as archaeologist and photographer. Historic places hold emotions and memories, and it's been my experience that if you look and listen carefully and quietly, you can see, hear, and feel them. While in the real world, the colors, tones, contrasts, and textures appear normal to the casual viewer. But if you look closely, you can see hidden layers of texture, color, and tone that are normally unseen. I perceive these places in-between as portals that are covered in a veil, and if peeled away, you can see what is, what was, and what might be. Time and space are trivial and unreal in these places. Colors are both vibrant and frail, with decay and rebirth all around, and breaking through the veil, it becomes apparent that spirits inhabit these places.
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