“uh uhh-h! no photos of my house!!” she hollered as she appeared in the doorway. I was still setting up the shot to include her mailbox and the entirety of the batting cage roof structure. I obediently put the camera down (remembering how threatening it can be) and headed across the road.
The house was a typical small house, but a bay window built of 1x4s had been inserted in the front and a craziness I can best describe as a batting cage covered the entire roof. Parts of this were coated in corrugated plastic and seemed destined for the same shot-crete treatment as the mountain-like mailbox. Concrete pillars anchored an extended front bay to the left of the door and from what I could tell, the inside had some work going on too.
For the next 10 minutes or so I tried to assure her I was not ill-intentioned and to get her to tell me more about her house and vision. Mostly in response I got that she was “just thankful God let me have a roof over my head” and “what’s so different ’bout my house? I don’t like all the attention, my home no different from the other homes. Some black folks in old houses, and white folks nice houses, folks don’t take pictures of they homes,” (well yes ma’am I do) “why they gotta take a picture of mine!”
I tried to make her see that what she was doing here was special, it was NOT something everyone does, it was not ‘just a normal house’ and the attention was GOOD. Maybe she knows that, J had an interesting perspective, that perhaps there was a little bit of shame, especially maybe the in-progress state of it. I have seen this surprisingly [to most of us] aggressively defensive attitude before in small towns and poorer neighborhoods. Folks have been put upon so long, they are used to the Man taking without giving back or even asking. Stories abound for anything deemed suspicious, in one neighborhood in Covington, rumors abounded that Miss L is redoing her house with money from the City since she was on the City Council. Naturally, these folks are untrusting of historic regulations, that their property value will automatically go up, their own homes will be condemned and the long-time residents forced out. Maybe my crazy house lady was worried I would report her home unsound (it probably is, case in point being the Broken Angel in brooklyn), I could be the first step toward a condemnation. Whatever her nebulous fears were they were untrue in my case if not unfounded. This attitude flabergasts me and I have a hard time not posting stolen a photo here…
Just to note, the Broken Angel artist-owner had no problem having his photo taken in front of his palace despite current and on-going attempts by the city to condemn his home. Very similar people in so many ways, but what a difference in attitude, their perception of art and understanding of their own creation and its affects on people.