Basement Sanctuaries

Gesche Wurfel in lensculture:

Base2“Basement Sanctuaries” explores how apartment building superintendents decorate the basements of their buildings in Northern Manhattan, NYC. These intimate photos attempt to illuminate the process of how migrants adapt to their new homes.

The basements occupy a strange space in every apartment building. On the one hand, they feel like special sanctuaries for the supers and their families, since the supers often live in the basement. The spaces are mostly hidden from the public and from visitors, thus giving them a sense of privacy. However, the basement is also a space of work for supers and the environment is on display for the residents of the building. Under these circumstances, the supers’ decorations function as a territorial claim over the basement’s semi-public/private space. Most of the supers in Northern Manhattan are migrants from Latin America or the Caribbean, and images from their home countries might connect their new home to a past they have left behind. This can be especially important given the grueling nature of their work and the difficulty of establishing themselves in NYC.

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