You might think that I’d have come across some pretty cool things over the years and, in fact, I was explicitly barred from taking anything for myself from any of the homes I worked. On one occasion, in amongst a stack of worthless albums by the Ray Coniff Singers and Bing Crosby, I found a Blind Lemon Jefferson 78 rpm record. “Bad Luck Blues” on one side and “Broke and Hungry” on the other. I slid the record into the duffel that held my lunch even though I don’t have the equipment to play it.
Of course, the first rule of the job is not to get involved. Don’t read the personal correspondence. Don’t try to put meaning to the faces in the pictures. And don’t try to reconstruct the last days or years of the deceased. Remain detached. Keep filling the black plastic bags. It’s hard.
A good number of the homes I went into were what you might call “garbage houses,” the former occupants having hoarded mountains of worthless material items against a yawning spiritual and emotional void. Old newspapers. Cereal boxes. Children’s toys (despite there apparently having been no children around lately). Bits of yarn. Anything that might be of some use in a future that would never arrive. When it got real bad we had to call in a HAZMAT team. My own father lived in a house somewhat like this. As a boy I recall a mix of anticipation and revulsion as I dug around in drawers looking for interesting artifacts or stalked around piles of old magazines that had begun to disintegrate in backed-up sewage.
All the above photos were taken Spring 2010 inside three abandoned homes standing right next to each other in downtown Augusta, Georgia, USA.