One of the things I do in the name of paying the bills is photographing new real estate listings for an agency in town. They’re great to work with, and I enjoy the variety of the places they send me. Most of the time, given the requirements of the average home shopper, the houses have been ’staged’ for showing prior to my arrival; furniture and furnishings have been supplemented, everything is perfectly clean. . . the house has been sterilized and packaged up so that prospective buyers can imagine themselves in the space.
Not so with the house I shot yesterday.
It was a sprawling rambler out in the woods in a remote outer ring suburb – a house where you walk in and you smell the smell of grandparents. Just last year I helped my Grandmother out of the house she’d lived in for over 50 years, and her house had smelled comforting in almost exactly the same way.
Even though most of the previous residents’ stuff had been moved out, there were still things lingering that fit together in a way that gave me this sense that I knew them: the 19th Century-era German Bible, the knotty pine, the piano in the corner, this well-worn armchair in the window looking out over the back yard. Such a personal thing photographing a person’s house. So rich in the sense of presence is a house that a family has lived in for decades.
I’ve been photographing real estate listings for the past year, and I’ve never lingered over the act before, but in this house I sat down in the armchair’s dented seat for a minute. I imagined what it would have felt like for the owner to sit in that spot before moving on or out, after what I imagined to have been a long stay. I congratulated him on a job well done and wished him well, then moved on to the next room.
More work at chrisbohnhoff.com.