American Dreams: The Paradox of Failed Subdivisions in Georgia
Project info

“… suburbia is the site of promises, dreams, and fantasies. It is a landscape of the imagination where Americans situate ambitions for upward mobility and economic security, ideals about freedom and private property, and longings for social harmony and spiritual uplift.”
--Dolores Hayden, from "Building Suburbia"

My photographs are part of an ongoing project to document failed residential developments throughout Georgia. While many of these subdivisions remain unrealized, they have created an alien aesthetic that is neither rural landscape nor suburban neighborhood. Through these images, I hope to convey the long-term ecological and social impacts of human actions, the fragility and resilience of nature, small acts of human reclamation and redemption, and the unfulfilled American Dreams that lie fallow in farm fields across America.

Between 1982 and 2007, more than 23 million acres of agricultural land—an area the size of Indiana—were developed in America. During this period, housing development outpaced the nation's population increase. By 2010, the number of vacant homes across the American landscape reached 19 million. A year earlier, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia had approximately 150,000 empty residential lots. A 2013 study suggested that Georgia was one of five states that accounted for more than one-third of the 6.4 million homes across the nation with negative equity mortgages.

Quietly disconcerting are subdivision entrance signs that still promise “pristine lakes [that] wash away the demands of the world,” “a place where the country club fits right into the country,” “[a community] where you will experience what real Southern Hospitality truly is,” and “the place you’ll never wish to leave.” Following the Great Recession of 2007-2010, suburbia brought about an unexpected reality for many families: promises broken, dreams taken away, and fantasies dissolved.