Spring 2010

Artist Project / The Plan

The wages of disposophobia

Michael Schmelling

In 1980, Ron Alford set up Disaster Masters, a Queens, New York-based crisis management company designed to help obsessive-compulsive pack rats clean up their acts. The sixty-nine-year-old veteran in the battle against clutter prefers to call this affliction “disposophobia,” a term he says he invented and which, according to him, covers conditions ranging from a reluctance all of us share to throw out the everyday stuff of our lives to modes of psychological dysfunction that result in literally life-threatening forms of hoarding. Between 2003 and 2005, the photographer Michael Schmelling trailed Alford and his team of salvage archaeologists as they tackled the disorderly homes of twelve disposophobics. The resulting images, a selection of which appear on the following pages, are published in The Plan (J&L Books), which takes its name from Disaster Masters’ toll-free number: 1-800-THE PLAN.

Michael Schmelling is a New York-based artist. He is the author of three books of photographs: Shut Up Truth (J+L Books, 2002), The Week Of No Computer (TV Books, 2008), and The Plan (J+L Books, 2009). A new book of photographs, titled Atlanta, will be published by Chronicle Books in the fall of 2010.

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