robert harding pittman

Apocalypse Habitat (book project in progress) + Info

After nine years of photographing, I have finished the second version of the book dummy for “Apocalypse Habitat” (working title), which before had the working title “The Bubble”. Many people have helped me on the way and I am very grateful to them. The book is far from done and this is the beginning of its journey into the world.

This is a story about waste and the underdog and how economic cycles can lead to our mistreatment of nature and of each other. It is a competition between the developer’s bulldozer and the weeds for survival.

Over nine years, I have travelled thousands of miles in Spain, Ireland and the Southwestern United States, in search of housing construction sites,  that were paralyzed by the 2008 global financial crash. In Ireland these ruins of our modern times are called “ghost estates”, in the USA they call them “zombie subdivisions” and in Spain, “urbanizaciones fantasmas”.

I am very grateful to many people in all three countries who so generously shared their personal stories with me of how they lived through and in many cases, still live through, the Great Recession. In Spain I interviewed homebuyers who lost their life savings in a home that is only a ruin that was never finished, and their lawyers who are trying to help them recover their money. I have  interviewed people on different sides of the issue: construction workers, a mortgage broker, a land broker, an architect, farmers, a real estate agent, a town planner whose town “is open for business”, academics researching the issue, and a passionate botanist studying the weeds in these areas.

Here are some double page spreads from the book dummy.

In many places in the world, there was a tremendous construction boom which started around the year 2000. In Spain, every hour, 2.6 hectares of land were being urbanized at the height of its construction boom. More houses were built than could ever be occupied, yet their prices rose and rose. Too many loans were given to people who could not pay them. And finally the bubble burst in 2008 and the Great Recession began. Many large scale developments were begun and never finished. Construction workers lost their jobs. Some people never got to see their dream home finished and lost all of their savings. Labor, money, natural  resources and natural habitat were wasted for naught.