article Essay

A Carpet Bag of “Real” Estate: An American Confessional

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

Confession

This is a confession that exudes from the scars of a naturalised Asian American who grew up in the Midwest (USA) and went back to live in Asia. The collection of analogue and digital images confesses the contradiction and the alienation of what it feels like to be an American who never felt accepted in the “land of the free” and in the land of his birth.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

rubbing off – phoenix az 2016 © mark l chaves

How’s the Water?

How can one even begin to define America? Alluding to David Foster Wallace’s parable about water, a fish would have to be removed from water to know what water is.

After the American Civil War, “Carpetbagger” was used by US Southerners as a pejorative term, referring to the carpet bags which many US Northerners carried. The term came to be associated with opportunism and exploitation by outsiders. From Wikipedia.

One way to know America is to leave America for a while. And, when we leave America we should also leave behind our carpet bag of myopia, stereotype, and bias. Then, hopefully, we can go back with a fresher set of eyes. This is what I did.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

special masses – youngstown oh 2016 © mark l chaves

Looking for the Banal

I discovered that one antidote for stereotype is to see things through a mundanely objective lens. Collectively, these photographs are a meditation on this premise. Here, nothing is staged, and the pictures are void of people. Only raw and naked starkness permeates.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

looking for ansel – phoenix az 2016 © mark l chaves

Out of Place

Just like being the only Asian set against an American working-class backdrop in the 1970s, juxtaposition is inescapable.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

horsing around – phoenix az 2016 © mark l chaves

Mundane Oddities

As a child, being odd, standing out, and not looking like everyone else was terrifying. But, that was just scratching the surface.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

my ray of sunshine – oakland ca 2016 © mark l chaves

Roots

After living in Southeast Asia for five years, I returned to America for a visit. It was an opportunity to reconnect with the roots of my love affair with banal settings. My roots run through Phoenix Arizona, the California Bay Area, and Northeastern Ohio.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

the ‘armed’ one – phoenix az 2016 © mark l chaves

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

carl’s junior – phoenix az 2016 © mark l chaves

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

missionary – san francisco ca 2016 © mark l chaves

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

apartment 5 – akron ohio 2016 © mark l chaves

Aim High

In 1984, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I did one tour-of-duty to save money for University. Our slogan was ‘Aim High.’ I earned a marksman ribbon for shooting a perfect score in my first qualifying round for the M16. My WWII veteran father was proud. In my group of friends and family, I am the only one who “served” his country.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

aim high – youngstown ohio 2016 © mark l chaves

9/11

I lived near Washington DC when 9/11 happened. Right after 9/11, I didn’t feel safe living close to the nation’s capital. And, it wasn’t because of any potential threat from abroad.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

pay no attention to what’s behind the facade – phoenix az 2016 © mark l chaves

Birth of the Rust Belt

In the late 1970s, the predominate steel industry in Northeastern Ohio began it’s decline after operating since the early 1900s. I remember ‘Black Monday.’ The air smelled different. Literally, there was something in the air–actually a lack of it. The smell from the smelting process from the steel mills was gone.

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

dated sprawl – akron ohio 2016 © mark l chaves

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

pop rocks – formerly the Girard Book & News girard ohio 2016 © mark l chaves

Vimpt Article - Real Estate Photo Essay by mark l chaves

syro steel – girard ohio 2016 © mark l chaves

  1. Thank you to Mark.L.Chaves for this amazing Photo Story! An honour to host these incredible images and personal reflections.

    • thanks so much for your kind words, Craig. i deeply appreciate your enthusiam and support. i couldn’t have poured my heart into deepening this piece without your encouragement. sorry for the late reply. 😉 m

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