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November 27, 2013

No one's home

Exhibit documents what people leave behind in foreclosures

The empty rooms in David Wells’ photographs are filled with ghosts.

These are not ghosts you can see but that are suggested by the sometimes messy, sometimes empty rooms in these photographs of homes that have been foreclosed in Massachusetts, California and several other states. They emerge, too, in the stories invented to describe them.

“Foreclosed Dreams” is on exhibit at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly.

“I started in April of 2009 at the height of the recession,” said Wells, who lives in Providence, R.I. “I started out working primarily on the West Coast and in the Northeast, but only recently got into Massachusetts and Maine. Four of the new photos are from Massachusetts and Maine.”

The ghosts in “Foreclosed Dreams” appeared in the moments after the rooms were vacated and before they had been cleaned out.

“That narrow time frame is when I want to be there,” Wells said. “The people who let me in are Realtors who handle (the houses), contractors who clean them up or the investors who buy them.”

Some people left messy mixtures of clothes, books and appliances, perhaps in haste or in anger or because they had run out of room in whatever they were using to carry things away.

Others left nearly spotless interiors, with only a stain on the rug or a single chair to speak of the lives they led in the space they were forced to leave.

Wells touched nothing when he got inside and shot all his pictures in natural light, to preserve their actual appearance. When light was low, he mounted his camera, an Olympus Micro Four Thirds, on a tabletop tripod, which allowed him to take long exposures.

Wells was a staff photographer for a few years at newspapers and is currently a member of Aurora Photos, an agency in Portland, Maine.

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