Teri Haven’s Intimate Photographs Expose The Lives Of The Squatter Community In Slab City

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Texas born artist, Teri Haven, documents a collective of outsiders in her series, The Last Free Place. Her photographs seem to capture moments from another era, or perhaps, where time in of itself has ceased to exist. Haven spent three years, 2006 – 2008, living part-time in a squatters community in southern California known as Slab City. Beautifully cinematic, her images draw parallels to Harmony Korine’s Gummo, acting as the aesthetic truth behind his fiction. The carnival-reminiscent, dream land of Slab City is a barren landscape located in between the Salton Sea (a man-made lake accidentally created in 1905) and an active bombing site. Beginning shortly after World War II, Slab City became a safe haven for “drifters, dropouts, artists, outlaws and other cultural dissidents who settle alongside the addicted and the elderly.” During her time spent amongst the Slab City dwellers, Haven set out to document the struggle that exists between the boundaries of freedom and isolation. Each portrait reflects its own unique identity, as the inhabitants of Slab City seem to have created personal selfhood through means alien to societal norms. She states:

“Slab City is a collection of fiercely independent, utterly original individuals. Cast out of, or just drifting away from, the “American Dream,” they come here seeking freedom from rules, rent, and the assaults of a society often unsympathetic to the underclass. Some are victims of poverty, of bad choices and bad luck. Others have renounced the “material world,” refusing to trade their time for money; many simply yearn for the sense of freedom that comes from vast open spaces. And though desert life can be extremely harsh, and in truth there is little freedom in poverty, here they find love and strength within a community that accepts and nurtures the individuality of its members.”

 

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