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2019 SPE Annual Conference: The Myths of Photography and the American Dream / Major support by The Joy Family Legacy Foundation

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 Nicholas Gaffney

SPE Member since 2017
Member Chapter: Northeast

Behind Kmart

Near where I live, a homeless population spends the warmer months on a thin strip of land underneath Interstate 89 and between some big box stores (Kmart, JC Penny, Best Buy, etc.) and the Connecticut River. Despite the area's natural beauty, it's not a place for long-term living. The river floods in the spring, tics thrive here in the summer, hunters make an appearance in the fall, and temperatures plummet well below 0ยบ in the winter. Nevertheless, someone with a tent and no other place to go could do worse (for at least part of the year) than seemingly easy access to all of the supermarkets and fast food restaurants nearby.

I went here with my camera to explore a disused nature preserve behind Kmart, but much of what I ended up photographing was the stuff left behind by this transient community. The water and overgrown fields make the landscape beautiful, yet it's also where things are regularly discarded: the homeless abandon their tents, the stores leave behind garbage, the river washes up its own detritus. This small area is so close to much of my community's daily life, but we rarely notice how much it reveals the bigger (and yet hidden) picture of the environment in which we live, the stores we shop in, and the roads we travel on.

Behind Kmart #6

Behind Kmart #12

Behind Kmart #12

Behind Kmart #7

Behind JC Penny #2

Behind JC Penny #15

Behind JC Penny #9

Behind Kmart #10

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Behind JC Penny #17

Under 89 #1

Behind JC Penny #8

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