Photographer: KayLynn Deveney (born Albuquerque, New Mexico; resides in Northern Ireland and New Mexico [summers])
Publisher: Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg & Berlin, Germany; © 2015
Essays: KayLynn Deveney, Jean Valjean Vandruff, Hank Stuever
Cloth-bound sewn hardcover; 128 numbered pages, 62 full-color illustrations; 20×24 cm, printed in Germany
Designer: KayLynn Deveney and Kehrer Design
The “typology” approach – series of objects that are similar yet different, and their interesting variations – has been around in photography since the exhibition and publication of New Topographics in 1975. Here at The PhotoBook Journal, we reviewed the industrial typologies of the Bechers in 2009, dealing with the works At Museo Murandi and Basic Forms of Industrial Buildings, as well as applying the same principle to other man-made structures in landscapes in our 2010 review of New Topographics (an excellent short overview of some of the genre’s history). That work was mostly monochrome, thus visually somewhat removed from our everyday life as we experience it in our current super-saturated current world of smartphones and selfies.
So here we find ourselves in the era of typology revisited – photographer KayLynn Deveney visits “storybook ranch houses” in the Western United States more than half a century after they were built, in order to observe what has happened in the meantime, resulting in a typological study of latter-day user treatments. This is a documentary and a sociological assignment, to be sure; many of the houses have changed hands a number of times in the interim, and a variety of people have left their mark on these buildings that once represented the homes that middle-class buyers were encouraged to dream about. As she states in the introduction on page seven, “the photographs of the houses come to stand in as metaphorical family portraits.”
It seems that color images are the best way to document these changes: plants (some of which outdo the relatively drab structures in color and size), seasonal decorations, cars and trucks, pets or statues of pets, and pottery, add some warmth to a generally alien and distant architecture of kitschy sameness that nevertheless has the effect of conveying or providing some simulated folk-world-related comfort. We marvel at the variety of ways that residents have added touches of individual meaning to their homes. In addition, there are a few double-page spreads featuring two similar houses in different locations, or two treatments of portions of the same house. The locations of the homes are noted in their captions.
This volume also greatly benefits from an essay by Hank Stuever on “Dream Homes” that explains the architecture from the perspective of the culture of its time, and delves into the application of a fairy-tale approach to people’s homes in an age of nuclear anxiety. The essay gives us an idea regarding the dreams and hopes of buyers of times gone by, and how the dream-fulfillment was orchestrated by architects and builders of the middle of the 20th century, as well as how it was implemented in several areas of the United States. “All you can lose is your heart” was an advertising slogan meant to entice families (especially the “lady of the house”) to purchase such homes that were somewhat at odds with the environment for which they were built. The comments by the architect, Jean Valjean Vandruff, regarding the concept and history of these “Cinderella Homes,” along with reprints of the original advertising and an exterior design drawing, also provide some important background information.
A very interesting study indeed! I am hoping that KayLynn will apply her formidable visual scouting prowess to similar projects of homes and their culture in Northern Ireland and other places!
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