Eminent Domain - A Photo Project

Matt Rahner's installation, including photographs and artifacts

Matt Rahner's installation, including photographs and artifacts

Matt Rahner is a photographer and Assistant Professor of Fine Art at Missouri Valley College, in Marshall, Missouri, where he teaches Photography and Graphic Design. A native of the rust belt and the midwest, he is interested in themes related to the American experience, landscape, and traditions of documentary photography.

He recently shared with us his photo project called, Eminent Domain, which examines the government's take over and demolition of homes in the Wendell-Phillips neighborhood of Kansas City, MO. The homes, of which 75% were owner occupied, were bought up or condemned by the city in order to build a new police station.

The photo series and installation (which includes mementos and artifacts from the homes) has been shown as a solo exhibition in several galleries throughout the Midwest. We'll let the photos speak for themselves:

Here is the artist's statement on the piece:

The series "Eminent Domain" is about the Wendell-Phillips neighborhood in urban Kansas City, located at 27th Street and Prospect Avenue.  In 2011, the city began to search for suitable locations to house the new East Patrol Police Department and Crime Lab. The city sought to consolidate 2 existing facilities, which were ill-equipped to handle caseloads and demand for the area’s police force.  24 potential sites were considered before settling on a 3-block portion of Wendell-Phillips. Within the neighborhood, there were 43 occupied homes of which 75% were owner-occupied.  Of the 24 sites considered Wendell-Phillips had the highest rate of occupancy.    

While the process was never legally implemented, the city began buying out homeowners under the guise of eminent domain.  The majority of residents, unable to fight for their property and unaware of legal protections, accepted the city’s first offer.  For residents who rejected offers, the city arranged to have their homes condemned.

This project began with the knowledge that one day there would be a void: occupied homes would become empty, demolished, then the remnants hauled away. I began this series with portraits of the neighbors and residents of Wendell-Phillips. After all had moved away, and the neighborhood was vacant, the pictures became records of demolition and removal. As a whole, the photographs from this series capture the physical manifestations of eminent domain. They are evidence of a forced relocation. When these photographs are printed and hung on the wall they confront our level of engagement with the reality of eminent domain. Through this work, I am exploring an accepted power construct, which allows one entity to forcefully, yet legally, relocate another against their will.

Thank you to Matt for sharing his work with us.

All photographs copyright Matt Rahner.

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