The Complexities of Home, Race and the Effects of Gentrification
This week’s Photogenie theme is titled "Trendification". Through visual stories, our curators research the question “How is gentrification affecting cities and their citizens?”.
Gentrification a term that comes up every now and then, but what does it mean? Gentrification is the process whereby the character of a neighborhood is changed due to the inflow of businesses and more wealthy residents. This process could be seen as a positive change since it increases the economic value of a neighborhood. However, there are negative aspects linked to this phenomenon. It can force out low-income residents to other parts of the city because of the increased cost of rent and goods. Gentrification has been a conflict in (US American) cities where the influx of wealthy, usually white inhabitants is seen as an improvement of the neighborhood of poor, minority residents leading to shifting racial and ethnic compositions of a city.
This conflict is also present in (North) Portland and visualized in the photo project ‘Eden within Eden’ by Ricardo Nagaoka. North Portland is an area where the population is largely African-American. It is one of the fastest-changing cities in the country and gentrification is now pushing people out of their homes and neighborhoods. Through urban renewal projects and new policies, especially black communities are isolated into other parts of town. His series contains visuals of the inhabitants on the streets, both young and old. The series also has visuals of the neighborhood where contrast is present in images of aesthetically placed red roses in grey hedges and images of sepia rusted cars, smashed windows and derelict buildings.
Through this project, Ricardo questions gentrification and the connotation of ‘progress’. What is this progress leading to and who benefits from it? He sees the process of gentrification as the loss of certain communities in a neighborhood, the loss of diversity and inclusion. The loss of the homes of people, the place where they have formed their identities and memories. His goal is to bring this topic to attention and show the complexities of home, race and the effects of gentrification.
Portland is just one of the examples of cities that are affected by gentrification and just like other big cities, one of the causes of this process is the rise of home-sharing platforms. Companies like Airbnb are becoming increasingly popular, short-term lets are a benefit to visitors of the city, and to inhabitants themselves who want to earn a little extra money. But these benefits must be balanced with the need to protect long-term housing. The problem with short-term letting is that every housing that is listed on the home-sharing platform is removed from the long-term rental market resulting in an increase in the rental price, in particular in the most central districts of the cities. Even if a house is only rented to tourists half the time, it’s pulled away from the long term housing market full-time. In Portland, more than a thousand units have currently been taken off of the housing market in order to supply short term vacation rentals. The reduced offer of long-term rentals results in the relocation of residents to other districts, thus encouraging gentrification and segregation processes. However, the causes and effects of gentrification are complex and contradictory, and its real impact varies.
About the artist: Ricardo Nagaoka is a Paraguay-born and Canada-based, Latino-Japanese photographer, who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015. His work is featured in Aperture, the British journal of photography and Paris-based design studio It’s Nice That.
Check out Ricardo Nagaoka’s full body of work at www.ricardonagaoka.com and @hisnameisricardo on Instagram.
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Written by Noura Oul Fakir