Cover of Anthony Hernandez's "Landscapes for the Homeless," Landeshauptstadt Hannover (February 1996)
In the 1990s Anthony Hernandez photographed the material traces of homeless persons lives in Los Angeles. These are very powerful images that leave me with mixed feelings about how to go about representing the lives of marginalized people, which can be abusive even with the best of intentions. While I appreciate this project and the gorgeous book Hernandez made, the ethics of making art out of homeless persons lives rather than working directly with them to give their own voices a chance to be heard leaves me cold. The photographs themselves are sold as commercial art pieces. I have no idea if any of the money they generate goes anywhere else but than to the gallerist and Hernandez. This is a typical commercial art gallery set up. The web site for the gallery doesn't indicate one way or the other, which leads me to believe that this is being handled in a typical manner. It adds another layer of marginalization to the lives of people who are UNHOUSED when people can make art and money out of their lives and they can't. These photos also tend to aestheticize the situations they record, which is also something that bothers me. Nonetheless, they remain powerful images that had an impact when they were taken. They still are quite provocative and I wanted to present them here. Hernandez's title for the project also suggests a deep empathy with the people whose lives he is documenting.