Suburban walks

"Many animals, like human beings, live in environments of their own construction rather than simply in nature."- Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place

Lately I've been taking photos on my way home from the grocery store. Usually it's evening. Usually I've been to buy something very mundane - bread, butter, salad greens, sponges. I am wearing nothing special. The walk is nothing special: down wide streets lined with cars, shiny in the twilight, past smashed bottles, bent bicycle wheels, couples having arguments outside of houses, children running after balls or each other. I tread on cigarette butts, avoid dog shit, look up at the phone lines and the clouds crisscrossing the sky. There is nothing and everything beautiful about these walks, and when I take photos of things that I've been passing for years without noticing - a telephone box on the corner of a street, a sun setting over some terraced houses in a cul de sac - they seem to come out more surreal (or is it hyperreal?) even than they appear in the moment I take them. There is a release, a calm in knowing that this constructed landscape is beautiful, even if it sometimes appears not to be.

“Thus the minuscule, a narrow gate, opens up an entire world.” - Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

I never saw myself living in the suburbs. I grew up somewhere rural. Suburbs had an ugly connotation. Now I forget that I live in suburbs, of a sort. But when I look at the photographs I see something unmistakably suburban about the place I live. I am reminded that it is independent of Oxford but at also a part of it; that it is its own place, too. In the photographs, devoid of context, of the evening sounds, it appears empty, disembodied. The roads seem to go nowhere, to end in buildings or sunsets. But there's a kind of dignity, too, and while I expect to feel alarmed or alienated, looking at these images, I never do.