While living and working on and off in Mexico for several years, Washington photographer Sora DeVore was particularly moved by the warmth and openness of the Mexican people. "You would just be literally walking down the street, and someone would talk to you," she says, "and the next thing you know, you would be invited back to their home." When she returned to Washington and settled into an apartment building on Wisconsin Avenue NW, she had plenty of new neighbors, but she felt little sense of community. "I think I was fascinated by the idea that, you know, we all live at the exact same address," she says, "and we come and we go, and yet we don't know who the people are who live around us." So she set out on a rather direct path to photograph the living spaces of her fellow tenants. "A camera gives you a reason to be there. It gives you a continued reason to keep going back as you forge this relationship."
Though the physical structure of each of the apartments was virtually identical, DeVore became fascinated with the way each resident decorated to reflect his or her individual personality, passions, culture. The sameness of the apartments quickly receded as the body of portraits grew. The project has been evolving for two years, but with frequent turnover -- and all the new friends she has made as a result -- there is no end in sight. "The building has 210 units," she says. "I feel like I've just begun."
Marcelle Barzilai. "Within the last five or six months, she moved out of the apartment building. She lived here for a very long time," DeVore says. "When I met her I felt like she was a kindred spirit. She was eccentric and always dressing up in different outfits. She loved getting her picture taken. And she actually asked if I could take a picture of her new place. She's living in a retirement community in Foggy Bottom . . . She's alone. She never married, which is something she always tells me: 'You have to marry' . . . She had love affairs in her life, and I think there was heartbreak, like everybody. She wished that it had worked out differently . . . She's turning 82 years old . . . I'm taking her out for her birthday."
Miranda Oakley. "She is in a PhD program for emerging infectious diseases. And her specialty is malaria . . . I was just stunned by how little she had in her apartment. I think you can tell there's not much furniture . . . She reminded me more of a student in a dorm . . . I said, 'What do you usually do in your apartment?' . . . 'I study a lot.'
Martin Chavez. "He's actually one of my closest friends in the building. We became friends because I speak Spanish, so that kind of started the friendship . . . I asked him if he would help paint my apartment . . . At that time, his daughter and wife weren't living in the U.S. . . . I remember being blown away by the green room, and I know that he painted it himself . . . He had painted his home interiors green in Peru, and it was kind of like remembering his house in Peru . . . When his wife and daughters came . . . they just wanted everything new. When they got here, they decided, I'm tired of green, no more green. So they just painted it kind of a cream color."
Clarisa Redman, with her children, Roy, Elizabeth and Robert. "The picture was the second time I met her . . . She was originally very apprehensive. She did not want her picture taken . . . I think she didn't understand what it was for . . . I don't think I knew how to explain it well. But then we went down to her apartment and had a great time . . . Since then, we've definitely become friends . . . I took her to take her driving test . . . She had actually gone a couple of times and, for whatever reasons, she hadn't passed. I let her practice on my car . . . And it was great. She passed."
Getachew Fanta. "He's a very sweet man. He works here, at the front desk -- he does the night shift . . . Since [this picture], his son and wife have come [from Ethiopia] . . . Since their arrival, he lives in a home . . . whereas before, you can tell, he had barely unpacked."