A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks

Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks

A lot of people turn their noses up at trailer parks. That's unfair, and David Waldorf's photo essay about the Brookside Trailer Park in Sonoma, California show us that there's beauty everywhere, trailer parks included.

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Waldorf spent years driving to Brookside in a Uhaul that he'd set up to be a mobile studio. The accomplished photographer would offer free portraits to the residents of the trailer park, and eventually, they came to trust him and invite him into their homes. The access yielded a series of stunning images showing Brookside residents in their homes being themselves. The photos are nothing short of poignant.

Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks

There's something else, though. The photos resonate with me, I think, specifically because I myself have played the role of a camera-toting outsider in a tight knit community. Chris Killip, my photographer teacher in college, always challenged me to go to places I wouldn't normally and talk to people I might otherwise avoid. Sometimes you have remove yourself from your comfort zone in order to find a fresh perspective on your subjects.

Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks

Waldorf is clearly a master at this. Clicking through his work, it's clear he has a gift for capturing people in a wonderfully intimate posture. His photos are the kinda of photos that make you want to take photos of your own. And those are the best kind. [David Waldorf via FastCo Design]

Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
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Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
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Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
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Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
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Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
Illustration for article titled A Poignant Look at Life in America’s Trailer Parks
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All photos by David Waldorf

DISCUSSION

I'm not questioning this photographer's integrity, as it seems like his approach to this project has been a long interaction with the community and not just parachuting in, but this whole formula seems like such a cliché at this point. The world of photography is already filled with these kinds of artificially lit, pastoral portraits depicting the underclasses. I get that there's a noble effort in depicting the lives of people who lack the privilege to tell their own stories. But this kind of work still seems exploitative in the sense that a commodity is being created by the person holding the camera who is no doubt a member of a different social class.