Our Only Guide Is Our Homesickness

I said, “Well, hi, sweetie.” I said, “I just came to meet you and see if we like each other and if we do,” I said, “I’m gonna take you home and you can live with me.” And he jumped up and kissed me on the mouth through the grating. And I said, “Well, I guess that seals the deal. Let me go see what your bail is.” And it was $150. And that was all that I had in my Chase credit card. —Luanne, about her dog Blue
 

The title of this series of photographs and audio is a phrase from Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. It was inspired by Will, who I met along with his dogs Ruby Tuesday and Queen Victoria. “It’s just my dogs and me. I don’t do a lot of talking to other folk,” he explained, before going on to tell me about his admiration of the author and his voracious appetite for books in general. As Will revealed other details from his life, I observed my growing desire for the satisfaction of the whole story, the consumption of content. Then I had the realization that to share a moment in time with Will, and to see and hear him as he chose to present himself, was a privilege, and I was grateful. This is the posture of Our Only Guide is Our Homesickness.

The day that I met Will, I also had the opportunity to talk with other pet-owners who receive services from Downtown Dog Rescue. They graciously shared their anecdotes and musings about their lives and their furry friends. I present those conversations here not as “complete” narratives constructed through my outsider’s gaze but as moments whose abundant details become examinations of the depth, diversity, and universality of the human experience. Unlike in film, television, or video, image and sound from a singular point in time are separate and nonsynchronous. The still photograph becomes the focus of contemplation while the audio moves through time, providing context and texture. Though I admittedly have my specific gaze and point-of-view, my aim is to show—not tell—so the viewer can make their own connections.

Field of Eminence, the final piece of the series, is a collaboration with archivist Henry Apodaca. Components that make up the soundscape of Skid Row are isolated in order to bring attention to details that are so familiar that they often go unnoticed: traffic that mimics nature, conversations between animals, small yet unencumbered bursts of joy and love.

This work would not have been possible without the generous, collaborative support of Clancey Cornell and Henry Apodaca from the Los Angeles Poverty Department and the Skid Row History Museum and Archive as well as Larry Bucklan of Bucklan Design Woodworks.
 


 

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