Matthew Rahner – Eminent Domain
Inspired by documentary photographers, my work stems from a deep interest in the ability of photography to reflect the complex subjectivities that makes both participant and viewer complicit in what happens in our world. Working within traditions of image making, I have set out to explore the concept of eminent domain and its implemented realities.
The series Eminent Domain is about the Wendall-Phillips neighborhood in urban Kansas City, Missouri, 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. 24 potential sites were considered before settling on a 3-block portion of Wendall-Phillips. Of the 24 sites considered Wendall-Phillips had the highest rate of occupancy, with 43 occupied homes.
While the process was never legally implemented, the city bought 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 initial offer. For residents who rejected offers, the city arranged to have their homes condemned.
Eminent Domain 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 Wendall-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. Through this work I am exploring a power construct, which allows one entity to forcefully, yet legally, relocate another against their will.