New Deal Utopias explores three planned communities built by the U.S. government during the Great Depression, collectively known as "Greenbelt Towns." My photographs depict the built environments and landscapes of Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; and Greendale, Wisconsin, to evoke utopia both as an idea and place in the American mind. Designed to be the ideal balance of "town" and "country," the communities were to house whom Franklin Roosevelt referred to as the "Forgotten Man," the displaced farmers and low-income urban dwellers most affected by the Depression. Ample communal green spaces and modest houses of the Greenbelt towns were to usher in a new American way of life based on cooperation, not individualism which brought on and accentuated the Depression. The program was ridiculed as "socialistic" and "communistic" by conservative members of Congress, industrial and corporate leaders, and newspapers hostile to New Deal policies, yet they still managed to make an indelible impression on the idea and development of the American suburb.
Today we are again struggling through tough economic times and the politics and divisions that produced the Greenbelt towns still prevail. My photographs engage with contemporary conversations about the history and future of urbanism, politics and place, and landscape and the built environment. New Deal Utopias is a portrait of a handed-down dream, but also an opportunity to reflect on how contemporary America grapples with the fallout and consequences of the Great Recession and the "Forgotten Man" of the twenty-first century.