Margaret Morton: Architecture of despair (March 23, 1994)



Margaret Crawford discusses Morton’s recently published book, Transitory Gardens, Uprooted Lives, which documents the unexpected gardens maintained by homeless people in New York City. Crawford praises Morton for presenting these situations honestly, without aestheticizing homeless or framing the work as naive. Morton documents beauty, creativity and community within hostile urban space.

Morton discusses her systematic documentation of homeless communities in New York City through photographs and interviews. She describes homes created in Tompkins Square Park in New York City that echo elements of conventional suburban homes. She describes the pain inflicted when this community was demolished. Her documentation maps the migration of individuals through various homeless communities.

Morton discusses the symbolism of permanence that figures in the shelters built in homeless communities in New York City. One homeless community, The Hill, had existed for approximately ten years prior to its demolition. Morton recounts the stories of individuals who lived in this community. She also discusses neighborhoods founded through economic hardship in pursuit of the American dream. She describes a Puerto Rican community in which the inhabitants came together and created an echo of their homeland.

Morton participates in a question and answer period. She discusses how her photographs have been used: in publications and in a lawsuit against New York City by the Coalition for the Homeless. She describes the people she documents as regular people, not nomadic by nature, only fallen into difficult situations. Her new work is more detailed mapping the movement of individuals and homeless communities over time and space. She foresees documentation in the adjacent boroughs due to the trends in migration of the homeless.

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