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Lauren DiBona The Other Side of the Tracks


Introduction Glassboro is a place where many people call home. I have called it home for twenty-one years. I have seen the great things and the worst things it has to offer. I have gone through the schooling system and learned that not everyone lives in a home like I do. Glassboro is a unique place with many different people. The town of Glassboro has three subsidize housing units, which is when the government subsidizes part of your living cost because you don’t make enough money to sustain a house hold. I am fortunate enough where I do not live in one of these houses but others may not be as lucky. When you drive from one side of Glassboro to another there is a definate distinction between one section and the other. In my photo essay I want to bring out what the “other side of the tracks” looks like and point out that poverty is not far away from your own front door. Every picture that you see is in the same town, from one side to another. Some people don’t realize that poverty is closer than you think. Just because you don’t live near Camden or the poorest parts of Philadelphia does not mean poverty is not close to you. I went to school with children that did not have food at home, their own bedroom, or a television. In the same town you will see people with their own entertainment systems to having one room apartments. Nothing shows this better than the houses and how significantly they change from one end of the town to another. There are runned down houses, forclosures and one room shacks. Campare those to upscale middle class homes and you can visually see the difference in one town. Poverty may only be on the other side of the tracks.


Photo Analyze The subject of the photo is the house. When you read about the Composition rules it talks about balancing the elements. When discussing the elements it says that when you place subjects off center you want something to balance out the white space. Because the subject was framed so tightly in the picture I don’t think a it needed to be balanced out. I also thought about the rule of thirds when taking this picture. I put the line of the boarded up door on the left line of the grid so your eye would be pulled to the worse part of the house. When I go out to take any of my pictures in this photo essay I look back to the Ruins of Detroit for inspiration. I notice that the author puts a lot of the building straight on and in your face, and the picture that always pops into my mind is framed with the appropriate amount of white space around it. When I took this picture and others I always thought about the white space that would be surrounding them. You do not want too much but you want just enough for the eye to be focused on the subject of your picture. I take the rules of composition into a lot of consideration when I take my photographs. They help me focus what I am doing because I do not have a lot of experience with photography. With a photo essay you need the viewer to be able to understand what you are trying to say, and you, as the author, cannot do that if your subject is not being represented strongly in your picture. I believe that the rules of composition if used as guidelines can help me or anyone else create the focus they are looking for.


Composition Analysis Photos capture a moment in time, that exact moment, and it may change the very next second. Why do we feel the need to capture all of these moments? Some say it is for our family memories to be passed down from generation to generation. Others may say it is so we never forget. When I think about a photo essay I think about the second reason, the part where we never forget. Photo essays are conveying a point, a thought about that moment in time. They bring up the questions why, who, and where. My photo essay brings out the point that poverty may not be far from your own front door. I have lived in Glassboro my entire life and have seen every part of it, the good and the bad. I am fortunate enough to live in a, in a nice home and nice neighborhood. When I started thinking about what pictures I was going to take for this essay I thought my topic was really well thought out. It brings in emotions, thought, and constantly asks the question why. Why do some people live the way they live, why did the houses become so distraught, and why do some live like kings compared to others? Some questions, I have learned, you may never know the answer to. You would have to delve deep into a family’s personal life, and not just look at the outside shell of their home. Thinking that this photo essay was going to be easy was the wrong thought to start off with. I thought I would go out frame the shot, snap some pictures and go home. But, once I started taking the pictures I found myself feeling embarrassed about doing it, because I was exploiting where these people live. I don’t know these people, but yet I am judging them by where they live, or how they choose to live. These made it difficult to follow the composition rules because I didn’t want to stand there for long, I didn’t want people seeing me taking pictures especially if it was their house, but I tried my best. I looked back at the inspiration for this essay which came from, Yves Marchand and Romain


Mefre, The Ruins of Detroit. I saw what they did with the pictures; they took these houses and building and stuck them in the middle of the shot, right there for you to see. I tried to do the same with my own photos. I wanted to put the houses, which were my subjects, in the middle of the photo. I wanted to try to highlight their defaults, such as boarded up windows and doors, broken glass, or battered siding, or bring out their big full of life characteristics of one’s home. To take the photos I used my digital camera. I found that I could put the grid lines on it to help me focus the picture. What really made the difference in the photos was the program I used to slightly change them. I used Paint Shop pro to create a darker image. I reduced the saturation on the photos as well as the brightness in some. I wanted to take away from the bright blue skies in the background and focus more on the subject of the picture. I again was inspired by the “Ruins of Detroit” where the authors Yves Marchand and Romain Mefre did the same to their photos. You take a picture to capture the moment, to create emotions or thought from the photo. Susan Sontag says “To take a picture is to have an interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged (at least for as long as it takes to get a good picture), to be in complicity with whatever makes a subject interesting, worth photographing—including, when that’s the interest, another person’s pain or misfortune” (6). I felt as if I was doing just that, capturing people’s pain or misfortune, but alongside with others happiness and fortune. Who is to say that because you live in a big home you are happy or because you live in a tiny home you are sad and less fortunate? This is how society has taught us to think, but I will never forget the one photo that I took of a very tiny house. It was obvious that someone lived in this house; it was so small it could not have had more than a kitchen, a bedroom, and maybe a place to sit down. It was as big as a two car garage. The most amazing thing though was when my brother said, “They have Christmas lights around their house”. This made me think, who am I to judge the


happiness or stability of this person’s life according to their home? Susan Sontag also said, “Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much as interpretation of the world as any other work of art� (3). The image captured was of reality, the reality is the house is tiny, little, miniscule, but the interpretation of the picture comes from the viewer. If the viewer saw the house as being tiny which to them equals poor than that is their own interpretation. If the viewer saw the house, noticed it was tiny, but saw the decorations, the cleanliness of the home and yard they could think, maybe these people are happy. This brings in the discussion of semiotics, what do these houses represent? Well, the icon which we know as poor is the house that looks run down, tiny, not well kept. Whereas the bigger more glorified houses means rich, well-off, in better social standings. The intention of this piece is to show the rich and the poor and our interpretation of each. It is also to show that they live in the same town. The story that I was trying to create was a simple one, poverty is not far away from your own front door, and in my town it may be right over the railroad tracks. The journey to get that point across was the hard part. Trying to be esthetically pleasing, following the composition rules, and trying not to be noticed while taking the pictures were all very difficult. I will never say that I have mastered photography, but I hope my point was received through the photographs I took.


Works Cited Sontag, Susan. "Photography." Online posting. The New York Book Review. N.p., n.d. Web.


The Other Side of the Tracks