The Homeland Project

I archive and document the development, destruction, construction and evolution of my neighborhood in Houston, TX, which has been transformed by the construction of a toll road and new housing. While my house was not destroyed, concrete and almost-identical looking houses spread across the surrounding countryside. A recurring question comes to my mind: Does anything ever exist if it is not recorded? I grew up in this familiar suburban landscape, and now I return to chosen sites every few months at various times, weather conditions and days of the week, to re-photograph these suburban and urban spaces. I select and edit my work to show images of a place that fall into a pattern of chronological progression.

As a first generation, immigrant, Indian woman and an American; I am working out the multiplicitous idea of what it means to be American; I am a photographer who works with a large format camera, dealing with the landscape in a pictorialist mode, making use of and adding to the field and form pioneered and dominated by white, male image makers. My work mimics this imagistic tradition, as I examine America’s constant need to urbanize and develop land. At the same time, I subvert the convention of male authorship, as I document and examine a land that maintains and holds me as familiar resident. There is the work, and the discourse surrounding landscape, which I am engaged in, but I am, by making this work, engaged in a critical dialogue about the complexities of the archive and the notion of the "real" in documentary processes. I develop highly detailed negatives with a large format camera and weave them together digitally. This chemical/digital hybridity allows me to reference pictorial tradition, and to visualize the panoramic landscape in a materially new manner. I must make a record and output of the landscape so that we may recall it as it had been, before the changes are unalterable and recede from memory altogether.

The urbanization of land in my neighborhood in Houston touches on the constant transformation of natural landscapes to expand the reach and boundaries of American urban societies. I feel my work deals with a larger understanding of the development of suburbia as a constant part of contemporary American life. Hopefully, my audience will see my landscapes not only as part of my homeland, but linked in imagination and fact to other regions of the nation, if not in other countries.

All works ©2008-2009 Divya Murthy