Home Made – A visual frieze on shelter.
By Esther Rausenberg
A photographic frieze derived from a recent homeless encampment.
I think a lot about my home. On any given night, when the rains come down and I am sheltered and warm; I appreciate that I have a place that is safe.
During the pandemic, Strathcona Park, took on a new significance for me and the Strathcona community. What has for decades been a natural park and a refuge, a wild and only partially cultivated space became, almost overnight, an encampment that eventually contained 500 residents.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, I documented the ever changing landscape of constructed, then deconstructed homes. The act of making a home, was a recurring one that I reflected on during these excursions. Avoiding specific portraits of the inhabitants due to respect for their privacy, I focused on the structures that sprung up across the park: tents, tarps, fire pits, flags, and multi-storied constructions. The story unfolded over time, revealing how residents of this temporary community demarked and personalized their allotted space, creating order and an element of distinction out of chaos. The documentation of these stages of construction, and subsequent deconstruction. I was impressed by how each temporary home is ‘different’, each eloquently speaking of the lives within.
My intent was not to pass judgement, but rather to record this time. I was drawn by the irony of homelessness in modern/progressive western cities, particularly Vancouver.
In Malcom Lowry’s The Forest Path to the Spring which he wrote while living in a squatters shack on the North Shore the words continue to resonate today. “Why had these shacks come to represent something to me of an indefinable goodness, even a kind of greatness? … “And some shadow of truth that was later to come to me, seemed to steal over my soul, the feeling of something that man had lost, of which these shacks and cabins, brave against the elements, but at the mercy of the destroyer, were the helpless yet stalwart symbol of man’s hunger and need for beauty, for the stars and the universe.”