a  collaboration project from
Hakim Bellamy and Justin Thor Simenson. 
Twenty four photographs and twenty four short stories make up the We Are Neighbors book. A limited edition hardcover was printed in the spring of 2018 and sold to ten founders. 
Hakim and Justin are currently working on an open edition softcover version that will be used for both educational purposes and sold to the public. It is their hope that they can use their work to create discussions about our neighborhoods (both physical and cultural) in high school classrooms, college halls, living rooms, neighborhood association meetings, and on the sidewalks. 
If you would like Hakim and Justin to present to your class/neighborhood association/organization please contact us.
“Trees are the original carport,” he says to her. “But nowadays it is a landing strip of bird shit. So I’ll take my chances with the sun. Can’t be any worse for the paint job.” She nods, not necessarily in agreement. Her future landlord does not yet know that this “walk through” is his audition. She has an appointment to check out an apartment two hours from now. She didn’t come to the grocery store hungry, she has options. But she likes the layout, more than the landlord. She would actually use her garage as a garage, and park her bikes there. She didn’t have the heart to tell him. He didn’t have the heart to care. To him, she is just rent. To her, he is barely tolerable. Good thing he cares more about his car, than his apartment.
Manscaping. A man who does his own shrubs, probably cuts his own hair. You know him when you see him. At work. At Albertson's. He's the guy that occasionally misses a spot. The guy who has had the same haircut since high school. Same job. Same shrubs. What you don't know, is that he cuts his dad's hair twice a week at the nursing home. Matching haircuts. Just like his father had given him all those years. He never began missing spots until he started losing sleep. When he moved his mother back in with him, in order to minimize the landscaping of two properties. She can't live alone, and refuses to be in the same nursing home as her ex-husband. The shrubs, are how she likes them. He'd actually like them a little more tame, a little less Neverending Story. But for now, between video games when he goes outside to sneak a cigarette at 2am, he fancies them a pair of gargoyles or griffiths, keepers of the gate. He's even named them Routine and Responsibility.
The closest thing this king had to a castle was the portcullis of his garage door. Before the vertical of the flat screen, and the horizontal of the pool table. Before the man cave, back when it was a mausoleum of relative estate sales. Framed prom pictures and wedding dresses. back when it was abandoned weight benches and boxes of outgrown action figures and bikes. After the car moved out, but before the nest emptied itself in the middle of the floor. Back when garages were erected as an obelisk to the greatness of suburbia. When cars became family enough to sleep inside  Before the kids came inside, and their childhoods given a proper resting place.
“ 'member when Albuquerque had drive-thru liquor stores?” Rey didn’t know if he believed him, or the premise of his question. Weldon always told the most incredible stories between 3pm and 6pm, the time when his parents got home from work. Especially when they smoked his mom’s medical and played video games. “See that overhang? That one right there between the garage and the house? Yeah, my grandpa used to bootleg booze right out of this house. It was legit,” Weldon paused. “I mean, it was illegal, but it was the perfect set up! Ask my mom when she gets home, yo…” Rey wasn’t interested in fact. He was interested in fiction. An architect-to-be, he was more impressed with the safety prospect of the detached garage, and how Winston’s set up was better suited for a fantasy about a meth lab and a high school science teacher. Because even if the garage exploded, you still have somewhere to go.
A preview of the limited edition hardcover book.
Artist Statement by Hakim Bellamy
Have you ever wondered what your neighbors were doing? In a good way? Not only when the music is “too loud” or when the occasional unannounced car is using your driveway for a “u”-turn. But when we have a hunch, that our evolutionary desire for community, our enduring hunt for community actually begins right outside our front door. Our search for humanity and purpose is not necessarily a trip to the Himalayas or Machu Picchu (if you are privileged enough to do so), it could be as simple as a walk around the block, a wave and a conversation.  And if even if you aren’t fortunate to have the ability (or time) to have a consistent walking practice… there’s always the pilgrimage within. That journey those same Himalayan sadus and Incan elders have spoken of for generations. The ability to go “in,” in order to grow “out.” To be the change you want to see. To walk a mile in someone else’s room. To practice radical empathy through the arts, by imagining what life is like on the other side of the fences, windows and walls that separate us. By writing community, one story at a time...and sharing them...with #TheGuysNextDoor.
Artist Statement by Justin Thor Simenson
Post-WWII America was built on the idea of neighborhood and community. The all-American house with the white picket fence and manicured lawn were symbolic of this sentiment, while the automobile became the ultimate icon of freedom. We Are Neighbors turns to the structural landscape of the American neighborhood for questions. What should our priorities be? Why don’t we know our neighbors? Why have we separated our places of work from our homes? The following photographs reflect this isolation, yet at the same time offer an honest look at a place we call 'home'.
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