The Poverty of Excess
Although I don’t consider myself a documentary photographer, my interest in portraying a range of psychological and metaphysical metaphors for the individual’s relationship to their environment has led me to photographing certain specific situations from life. Back in 2011 I had the opportunity to document an extreme cat hoarder house at a house in Plattekill, NY, and because of my interest in human neglect and desecration I was intrigued. I had no idea what I would find in that house, but the memory (and smell) of it is etched indelibly into my consciousness. I photographed the house, presented it on my website and made a few prints with the assumption that this would be a one-time project of limited scope, despite the strong response it received. However, in 2014 I was able to document another cat hoarding environment that proved to be equally disturbing and relevant to my interest in the previous case. It became clear to me through the visual clues and details of each environment that these were not just portraits of mental illness, but had implications for a broader phenomenon that went far beyond animal hoarding. The project began to take on new life, and then in 2017 I was able to document a third cat hoarding house and the connections were painfully clear and obvious to me. These environments were defined by poverty combined with excessive consumption; a condition which can only exist in a society where scarcity has been mostly eliminated and even the most economically challenged segments of society can afford to surround themselves with an endless supply of food, clothing and other possessions. I have come to understand that these people with obvious psychological problems are also symptoms of a wide-ranging social condition where even the most impoverished segments of society can afford to surround themselves with an endless supply of cheap food, clothing and other possessions. I am also painfully aware that photography can never present an objective reality, and that is neither my desire nor my intention. My hope is that my subjective response to this phenomenon will at least shed some light on an otherwise hidden world and that the viewer can move past the initial shock and disgust toward a more sympathetic understanding of mental illness and self-examination of our own over-consumption.