In May 2020 I was unexpectedly diagnosed with incurable Stage IV melanoma. Since then, the images in this project have taken on new meaning. Unwanted Visitors is a project about finding answers to unexpected questions through the exploration of place.
The photos were originally taken in early 2019. They were the beginning of a now discarded project into how wealthy Californians protect and secure their homes. There’s a lure to the modernist architecture, tended greenery and palm lined suburban streets that brings buses of tourists every day. In response to this unwanted attention, the residents display security firm signs and build tall, locked gates creating an unwelcoming and uncomfortable space.
Attempts at warding off these visitors seem to go largely unnoticed however, as bus after bus still arrives, full of passengers taking snaps of homes that were once owned by Hollywood greats.
This project has turned into something new, and more significant since my diagnosis. It’s about an unwanted visitor arriving at my own door. An unwanted visitor that has made itself at home in my abdomen, heart, lungs and brain.
Although my cancer can't be cured, my treatment is at least making the spaces visited by the melanoma unwelcoming, just like the ADT signs, locked gates and high walls of the Californian suburbs. I have, however, had to accept that my unwanted guest is here to stay and all that we can do now is learn to live with each other.
These images continue to grow in significance for me as I learn lessons from what I see within them. The mountains surrounding the suburbs reflect the support I’m lucky to have around me. The security lights of the images taken at night represent a brightness that friends and family trigger when life feels dark.
My treatment is enabling me to remain active and optimistic, but I still find myself returning to these images of security firm signs, locked gates and high walls. Under the weight of my condition I can detect that my emotional wellbeing is in danger of attracting another unwanted visitor. I know that my mental health is a part of my life that can not afford to be inhabited by unwelcome guests, especially if my current occupier and I are to cohabit peacefully..
Rediscovering this forgotten project about wealthy American suburbs has provided answers to questions I never expected to ask, but I hope reflecting on this place, and other places, will continue to guide me and my unwanted visitor through the rest of our time together.