Book pages 64-65

Slavery, just like the ghetto, is not always physically concrete. Nevertheless you can get an impression of the common psychological character of the two from their physical expression.

When I lived under the conditions which are typical for the underclass, I easily understood how the physical shackles also became mental shackles.

For I know from my own experience that these shacks, in which black people have lived since abolition and to which millions are still confined, are completely inhuman and that one in no way has the feeling of freedom - the possibility of expanding intellectually and creatively.

For some people conditions have even gone backwards since abolition and today they live in miserable shacks even smaller than this original slave cabin.

I feel frustrated about photographing shacks, for I experience them as far, far worse than they appear in photographs.

In such pictures you cannot see the wind which whistles through the many cracks making it impossible to keep warm in winter.

You can't see the sagging rotten floors with cracks wide enough for snakes and various vermin to crawl right into the living room.

Nor do the pictures show the absence of running water, not to speak of bathrooms and showers, or even electricity. Thousands upon thousands of Americans live by the glow of the kerosene lamp at least those who can afford to buy kerosene.

And it is extremely difficult to give a photographic description of the peculiar sensation you have on suddenly being transferred to a condition we in Denmark have not known for the last hundred years although it is delightful after all the stifling noise characterizing American homes suddenly to stand in the silence of no TV or radio.

Liberal whites with no fear of the lights being turned off sometimes maintain to me that the poor blacks ought to feel happy for this reason. With their romanticism they reveal a terrifying insensitivity toward the psychology of involuntary poverty.

And even if you are perhaps free from the invasion of the commercials of affluent society inside your shack, you nevertheless have your prospect destroyed by the omnipresent aggressive billboards right outside.



Copyright 2005 AMERICAN PICTURES; All rights reserved.


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