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Reading Response 2 : Irina Nersessova


Margaret Morton’s photographs of the homeless people of New York City demonstrates how urban space impacts the psyche and behavior of those who live there. Morton’s photographs capture shanties built in New York City. Morton’s individual pictures come together to reveal that the homeless are actually united and solid human beings. Shelter is a major part of someone’s identity. Being homeless may seem as though their identity is fragile and that their identity is constantly being taken away from them. The homeless indeed have a home just not as stable as other. Having personal space gives room for individuality. When the homeless are discussed they are neglected of self-identity. In capitalist societies people are defined by their shelter and the material things that they have. This is flawed because a home can be taken away or destroyed. Being and homeless is seen as a complete binary compared to being housed but in fact it is not. Spectacles such as these rely on image promotion and mass media. Everything is seen as a representation of what people desire to have. In order for the working class to live comfortably and no longer struggle, capitalism needs to be abolished. Morton’s interviewees use space creatively and use materials that do not treat the environment as a commodity. Morton’s photographs display the conflict between society and the spectacle of the reality of the homeless people’s lives. Riots in the 90’s addressed problems in the oppressive state, education system and social justice. Morton’s photographs also displays the two so called “binaries” as being alike and in the same common place. Mass marketing is formulated to continuously push out certain communities such as the homeless. The Situtationist International’s goals include eliminating division between arts and exploring spaces to understand an environments psychological impact on those that live in that area. Morton understands that imposed inhibitions and prohibitions must be overcome in order to lose oneself. Overcoming inhibition plays a keys role in Morton’s willingness to journey into tunnels and abandoned streets. While Morton captures the transitory lives of the homeless, she also captures the outside attempts to destroy the homes made in the tunnel. One of Morton’s interviewees named Bernard, states that aboveground life distracts people from the individual self. Underground life is not dedicated to images and accumulating commodities. Bernard uses space to achieve a certain level of consciousness he believes is necessary for survival. Another interviewee does receive money from the government but it is not nearly enough to live in a way that is fixated on commercial messages and things not needed for survival. Safety may seem like a major downfall living in the tunnels but it sometimes may be the least of their worries. The darkness of the tunnel prevents strangers of the area from coming into the tunnels which gives them the ultimate level of security. Residents of the tunnels have extensive knowledge of aboveground space which allows them to easily travel above ground to obtain the essentials and necessities they need to survive. The actual label of being homeless has been negatively associated with criminal behavior. The ability to live underground is a result of the lack of use of public space and poor conditions. Homelessness is not defined by having a home but by the lack of stability of their home.


NERSESSOVA, IRINA. “Tapestry Of Space: Domestic Architecture And Underground Communities In Margaret Morton’s Photography Of A Forgotten New York.” Disclosure 23 (2014): 26. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.


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