Artist's Statement

Kathleen Tunnell Handel

As the availability of affordable housing continues to erode, Where the Heart Is: Portraits from Vernacular American Trailer and Mobile Home Parks, investigates this deeply affected, uniquely American housing form. My ongoing photographic study challenges the ingrained stereotyping of both the estimated 20 million Americans who live in manufactured housing (as stigmatized trailer and mobile homes are being rebranded) as well as of the mobile home parks that are my focus.

This project is informed by immersive research into affordable housing and the American Dream, then contextualized by further research into issues strongly impacting manufactured housing such as zoning and gentrification. Conversations with park residents and collaboration with park managers, urban planners, and academics further ground my image’s fine art aesthetic within the documentary tradition.

Inside mobile home parks, feelings of community are heightened by the care often devoted to the ornamentation and landscaping of confined yards and entryways, often despite or due to limited resources. I delight in discovering these spaces and presenting them as portraits revealing the personalities of the unseen residents. These often exuberant public displays are in welcome contrast to the anonymity of life within the urban high-rise where I live today.

Singular portraits of individual homes are also classified and constructed into a library of typology grids, archiving differences and commonalities across communities. This act of observing, collecting, and codifying is imbedded in my creative process and has been my lifelong way of engaging with the world.

All images are available in limited edition archival digital prints. Each single image prints at 17x22 and 35x46.75 while the typology grids are available in sets of 8 individual images each at 13x19 or all 8 in one single 24”x60” print.

To date, Where the Heart Is includes locations within Maine, California, Texas, Colorado, NY, NJ, and Arizona. My intention, time and resources permitting, is to complete creating the project’s taxonomy by also exploring a number of states within the South and Midwest.