Date of Submission
Project Advisor 1
Good Intentions depicts various manifestations of intentional community. An intentional community is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. The people may live together on a piece of rural land, in a suburban home, or in an urban neighborhood, and they may share a single residence or live in a cluster of dwellings. Although quite diverse in philosophy and lifestyle, each of these groups places a high priority on fostering a sense of community--a feeling of belonging and mutual support that is increasingly hard to find in mainstream Western society. The project began with my recognition that, among my generation, there has been a return to this communal ideology. In the current political atmosphere, many people are questioning society’s values and rethinking the often-alienating “individualist” mentality. They bemoan the “loss of community” in the United States and so have found various ways of reintroducing it, intentionally, into their lives. Observing this resurgence in various groups of my peers and recognizing it as a socially and politically significant movement, I was compelled to explore a cross-section of communities, old and new, young and old, religiously based and secular, communes, co-ops, Eco villages, etc. I began my exploration with idealistic notions and a photographic intent to prove that these notions could hold true. However, upon visiting my first community I realized that to proceed with this intent would be to provide a false and over-romanticized tale of my subjects. Instead I had to negotiate my privileged position as an outsider, a temporary visitor, and allow my photographs to navigate my way in. By treating each community as an individual and with little preconception, I was able to examine the cohesive intricacies and complexity of relationships that existed in every community I came across. My experiences within the 15 communities that I visited differed vastly. Some I entered with an immediate sense of warmth and belonging, others greeted me with walls up. Many times I left the community saying, “I’ll be back soon” and meant it whole-heartedly; while once a strict skeptic of the family structure, these incidents renewed my faith in “the family”. However, I must admit that not all communities left me with this sense of hope, and some inspired criticism. The pictures I made in each place speak to this dichotomy of experience. Being privy to some intimate moments throughout my exploration helped to develop my understanding of the complex intricacies within every intentional community, as well as my questioning of them. I questioned why individuals choose to live in community, how personal identity becomes intertwined within the greater identity of the community as a whole, and how interpersonal relationships factor into this web. Dialogue is an essential and constant element of intentionality, but it can become challenging and tiring. On the other hand, this dialogue fosters the sense of connectedness that most people yearn for. What does it mean to live sustainably? I discovered that in practice, this question had different interpretations. Some communities focused on living close to the earth, using solar panels, gardening or farming, recycling, composting, using less, wasting less. Some focused more on interpersonal relationships, and some on the relationship to their larger or external communities. In my observations the most successful communities were holistic in the ways that they imagined sustainability in every realm and necessity of life. Finally, I questioned the idea of home, because ultimately an intentional community is a home for those who choose to make it. What makes a place a home and how do we define what a home means? Meaning is personal, and directly related to the space each person inhabits. Through my photographs I capture a glimpse of the way relations change when the spaces we inhabit are communal. I began this project with the sense that I was approaching something that I was not a part of. Through it, I found that the difference between the communities that the vast majority of us exist in and the communities that I explored lies in the intention through which we create community for ourselves. My pictures reflect not only on the product of intentional community, but the good intention upon which it is founded.
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Lange, Samantha, "Good Intentions" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 309.