He turned to freelancing so he could pursue topics in depth, which he examines in series of photos that are either documentary or devoted to capturing the light in particular environments.
“Foreclosed Dreams” combines these approaches, Wells said, to present a contemporary social crisis through poetic means.
“I didn’t want to do people standing in front of their houses upset, because it’s a very narrow visual language,” he said. “I didn’t want people to look at that and dismiss them.”
Although he often interviewed realtors to find out what had happened to the people who had lost their homes, Wells felt it was important not to include them in his photographs.
Viewers tend to distance themselves from people whose circumstances seem unique, Wells said. But imagining what might have happened in a scene when all you can see is its aftermath helps us put ourselves in others’ places.
“I wanted people to look at this and think, ‘This could have been my grandma’s house,’” he said.
In one picture, a half-eaten grilled cheese sandwich is left on a plastic foam plate on a kitchen counter, along with an empty bag of chips and a can of soda. Behind it, out of focus, a dish rack with a few glasses sits next to the sink, at an angle that will allow it to drain.
In another photo, a cardboard box has been left on the floor, with a child’s stuffed toy leaning its head against one side, as if in despair. A piece of paper pokes out of the top of the box and may have been used to pack something inside, raising the question of whether these items were forgotten or abandoned.
Wells thinks many people have moved beyond this crisis in their minds, but millions of foreclosures are still working their way through the system, leaving plenty of agony to document.