Tag Archives: Closed Doors

Alyssa Miserendino: Our World Insideout

This week, I am sharing a few of photographers that I met at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago….

I am of the belief that some of our most profound work comes from things we know. This is certainly the case with Chicago photographer, Alyssa Miserendino.  Alyssa is working on a multi-layered, global project that started with circumstances in her own life–the abandonment of her father, and eventually the collapse and loss of the family home.  Her project, Our World Insideout, begins with familiar territory and moves to Brazil, New Orleans, and Chicago.  Alyssa is about to open an exhibition of this work on December 6th at the Bette Cerf Hill Gallery in Chicago (funding provided by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation).  The work will continue on to the Elmhurst Art Museum for an exhibition that runs from January 18th – mid April.
From a fellowship award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, to an investigative journalism grant from the Driehaus Foundation, Alyssa continues to pursue personal bodies of work that assemble the ideas of home, memory & our relationships to one another emotionally. This work, in addition to her commercial work, has been widely exhibited and well published.

Our World Insideout
Our World Insideout was born from my young home life that was raw, violent & steeped in displacement and abandonment. The catalyst of this life-long project started with documenting my own abandoned home in 2004, from the inside. Then in 2009, during the economic crash, I found a relation to the familiar emotion of loss & I started documenting other’s homes. I created the imagery with the hope that this project will incite a visual, global dialog concerning the used & unused resources; thus inspiring change. It touches on the many levels of humanity & one of the most sacred places for us : home. Insideout is one word – there is no delineation between what happens behind closed doors & what is communicated to the outside world.

Images from the family home

Our World Insideout: Brazil (2010) 

I’ve been to properties with notices posted since 1998, walked though gates with layers
of cobwebs, & entered abandoned homes experiencing what is left behind – the day a
family & children were evicted, the day the owners ran out of funds to complete
construction, the day the owner died & the family neglected to clear the home of the
deceased’s belongings. I’ve captured images of a home 15 years forgotten & now
surrounded by mansions; held my breath in a house that is a historical site, splattered with
feces; & opened a never-ending sea of unlocked doors. However, I have also witnessed
what others have built with their own hands, resourced from other people’s garbage. I’ve
met people & listened to their stories about how they ended up taking over an abandoned
home; picked up a nomad with her fishing pole to visit her train station house & met a
woman who built her home around the base of a tree, from found objects. 

Our World Insideout: New Orleans

Our World Insideout: Chicago before & after (2012)

What you see here is Chicago from 2009 and Chicago from 2012.  Each Diptych has their own story, like each one of us.  Here is where another nature is being formed, and hopefully a dialogue for acknowledgements and change – a chance to grow in this world.


Insideout is one word–There is no delineation between what happens being closed doors, and what is communicated to the outside world.

Haunted Histories by Corinne May Botz

In her projects, Corinne May Botz reveals a dark obsession with domestic space and what lies behind closed doors. Often times the home is used as a stage to explore mysterious moments about life and fears of death. This is evidenced in her past series which include her book The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death (The Monacelli Press, 2004), where she photographed models of crime scenes based on actual homicides, suicides and accidental deaths created to train detectives to assess visual evidence. In the project Murder Objects, she photographed household items that were used as evidence in violent crimes, and in Parameters, she explores the homes where agoraphobics live. What eventually comes together in all of this work is an idea of how we use seeing to come to terms with something invisible like crimes we didn’t witness or fears that are unexplainable.

Her latest book Haunted Houses is no different and uses photography as a way of exploring an invisible history of the spaces we live in. Here, Botz tells TIME what inspired the project:

“The first thing that inspired the project were writers like Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte and even Toni Morrison. Often these ghost stories were written by women as a means of articulating domestic discontents. I was interested in the idea of a woman being trapped in the home or by domestic space and how this was expressed in history. That combined with the desire to travel led me to photographing the houses.

It has almost become a right of passage for photographer to go on a road trip like Robert Frank or Stephen Shore and traditionally it’s work about public spaces but this project is about private spaces. It’s amazing how many people let me into their homes.

A lot of time I would just show up and knock on the door. When I photographed in haunted houses, I tried to open myself to the invisible nuances of a space. I photographed using a large format camera, with exposures often ranging from a few seconds to a few hours. Though the medium of the visible, photography makes the invisible apparent. By collecting extensive evidence of the surface, one becomes aware of what is missing, and a space is provided for the viewer to imagine the invisible.

I worked on the project, on and off, for 10 years photographing over 100 houses and recording over 50 oral ghost histories. (You can listen to them here)

Unlike the majority of horror films where the ghosts arrive as a result of an inopportune death, or to right a wrong, the inhabitants of these houses are often at a loss for why the ghosts are there, and in some cases the ghost is considered a source of comfort.”

In terms of people…many of them like their ghosts and and the comfort of not being alone, they like these caretakers protecting the house and having these histories attached to their house. They like having their everyday life have some kind of surprise or mystery to it.”

Haunted Houses (The Monacelli Press) is available here. Corinne May Botz’s work is currently part of Crime Unseen at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, which is on display through Jan. 15.