Julia Baum's Houses Reveal the Differences in Sameness

Julia Baum's Houses Reveal the Differences in Sameness

Gregory Han
Nov 3, 2009

As a child of middle class suburbia, the tract home defined our perception of home and a house. But even in our youth we noted that although the Smiths may have occupied a similarly designed tract design as the Chungs a few houses down, the residences would undoubtedly be decorated/landscaped in a very different manner. This is especially so in more established tract neighborhoods like our very own childhood hood of the Valley, where homes varied wildly despite sharing the same floorplan...

Photographer Julia Baum explored this phenomena of individuality shining through the landscape of conformity in her series titled Houses (notably through the art of topiary). Each photos capturing the recognizable characteristics of our own memories of our own homes and the neighbors around us.

Over the course of four years I have studied and photographically explored a set of suburban tract homes located in Santa Clara, California. They were built during the 1950's and structured from the same architectural plan. This sort of terrain was first documented in the New Topography movement of the 1970's. As I take a second look at these neighborhoods, I've found vast differences in what was once a uniform typology. Over the past 50 years these Houses have transformed from modest white cubes into a vibrant display of personality and present a rebellion against conformity. My work asserts that human individuality cannot be contained. Inevitably it shines through even the most average facade.

*A special thanks to Julia Baum for permission to reproduce her photographs.

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