Monday, March 30, 2009

Time Marches On

I did a photo project on shotgun houses which ran in The Times in September 2007. A tenent in one of them on Travis Street in Shreveport's Ledbetter Heights neighborhood was 87-year-old Magdaline Hills. The outside of her home wasn't in good shape, but she surrounded it with flowers and other potted plants and tended a garden in the side lot filled with okra and giant tomatoes. She said it kept her from going crazy. The inside was clean and neat and filled with a lifetime of possessions.

I was riding my bike around downtown with some friends a few days ago, and we stopped by the house to see if we could say hi. As we rolled up in front of the place, I could clearly see that nobody lived there anymore. Most of the pots were gone or broken and everything was overgrown with weeds and neglect. The front door was missing. I walked inside and all her belongings were there, trashed. Stuff still hung on the walls - paintings, photos, even her telephone. I was taken aback. What happened to Ms. Hills? Why did she leave without taking anything with her? Did she die? Usually while working, I push emotion out. Nothing gets to me. Shootings, fires, funerals, nothing. But this bothered me.

I went back the next day and took some photos. While driving away, I saw a neighbor in his yard, and a friend who was with me asked him if he knew anything. To my relief, he told us that she had moved, though he didn't know where she'd gone. The movie studio folks had got to her and forced her out, he said. That they were trying to get them all.

Land directly across the street from their homes was cleared many months ago so a movie studio could be built. But construction has yet to begin and the dirt sits flooded. The neighborhood has been in decline for years, and the studio was to help rid the area of blight. Though on the cusp of downtown, it is more lonely and empty than ever.

I still plan to track down that old lady. In the meantime, here are some photos from then and now.


MikeR 3/30/2009 9:06 PM  

Good work and good for you!

Anonymous 3/31/2009 8:50 PM  

I hope you find her, Val!! Great photos. Made me sad seeing the house how it is now...Felicia

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