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  • Oniontown

    Oniontown is like an onion, a reality in layers, a town with many facets. We only understand its heart thoroughly through perseverance. Oniontown is not thought of as a nice place to go. Locals keep away for fear of being shot. The stigma of oniontown evokes it’s past, a place first inhabited by a family rumored to be inbred. But in the 1950’s ethel smith moved up to new york and bought the land from this family to start a family of her own. Located at the end of a dead end street, in duchess county, not far from new york city’s lights of modernity, this little community of 7 trailer homes, all inhabited by the same extended family sits as a microcosm. Although some of the families subsist on welfare and disability checks, they live autonomously from the surrounding community and survive off of their own land, hunting deer in the neighboring woods and breeding animals such as pigeons and swine. Many of the children live in broken homes, some with incarcerated parents, others who were abused, arriving in oniontown with no other place to go. The children capture love where they can find it. Despite this, there is a sensibility to oniontown, of familial love, a sense of responsibility to protect and look after one another. It’s a community built on fragile walls, and remains of discarded dolls, televisions, and motorcycles, all of which hold the pains and joys of the past. The layers of oniontown reveal a complex society under imaginary notes of a carillon out of tune, the memory of an amusement park already old and forgotten.

  • Hannah on her 4th birthday celebrates without her father Shaun who is serving a jail sentence for his 3rd drunk driving offense. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • A private property sign hangs on a tree on the road leading to Oniontown. The residents of Oniontown often use their land to hunt animals. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Josh Jr. get s his hair trimmed by his uncle, who has become the defacto barber of Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • An old photo of two horses abandoned in the soil of Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Joshua Smith helps out his great uncle Dick with unloading the pigeons into the coup. Dick imports the pigeons from New York City where they are illegally caught and sells them to local gun clubs in order to use for target practice. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Oniontown viewed from the backyard of the Smith trailer house. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • A basket of fake flowers adorns the flag covered bay window of Ethel Smith's home. Ethel Smith bought her property in Oniontown in the 1950's and her children who have since spread to adjoining trailers grew up in this house. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Sharon Smith listens through the walls of her sister Desaray's room. The walls are so thin that she can hear everything going on outside. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • A deer head lays on the ground of the Oniontown game shed near the hooves of it's former body which hangs from the ceiling to drain the blood. Most of the men of Oniontown spend a good part of the winter deer hunting in the hills of their property both for game but also as a source of food. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Dick Smith's, considered the grandfather of Oniontown, rifle lies on the dinning room table just before he and his grandson, Hunter go out hunting rats. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Joe watches TV in his sister Desaray's room while the other kids are at play.©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Two Pigeons look out the window from their coup which has been converted from an old trailer home. Dick Smith imports the pigeons from New York City where they are illegally caught and sells them to local gun clubs in order to use for target practice. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • A light-up crucifix sits atop the night table of Patty and Dick Smith's bedroom. The family has much Christian paraphernalia around the house yet are not actively religious. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Hannah at bedtime.
  • A forgotten doll lies bare throughout the winter in Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Cousins, Hannah and Ariana play on a discarded sofa outside of Hannah's trailer home. The children play unassumingly with many discarded objects and structures around Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • A trash pile burns in the center of Oniontown. Trash burning is common here as the county does not provide trash collection and it costs money to hire private companies to haul. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Jaquon exerts his anger on the abundant trash strewn across Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • A smashed television lies abandoned in Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Joyce Smith holds her daughter Hannah after she woke up from a nightmare during a game of Monopoly. Deseray laughs at her cousin Hannah's childishness. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • A small Native American statue stands guard at the head of Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Dick Smith pulls out his 22 calier rifle from his gun cabinet and hands it to his grandson, Hunter in order to go hung rats for fun at dusk. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • The pigs of Oniontown eating donuts in their pig pen. Dick Smith, known as the grandfather of Oniontown breeds pigs in order to sell for slaughter in his make shift pig pen built on the land of Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Deseray came to Oniontown, haveing nowhere else to go after her mother was put in Jail on drunk driving charges and her father was abusing her. She is arguing with her grandmother Patty under Jesus' watchful eye. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Baby ducks inside the Smith family trailer house. The Smith's keep baby ducks inside away from the cold when they are so small and fragile. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Katie sits against the window protected with plastic against the winter cold in the Smith family trailer. Katie does not live in Oniontown but is a relative of the Smith's and often comes to visit on the weekends to play with the children. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Small figurines of soap line the shelp in the bathroom of Ethel Smith's home. Ethel Smith bought her property in Oniontown in the 1950's and her children who have since spread to adjoining trailers grew up in this house. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Patty and Dick Smith, married for over 20 years watch TV together during a rare, quiet moment in the house. Baby ducks lie in the cage to their side. They bring the baby animals inside during the winter so they don't catch cold and die. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • The Smith's dog, Scotch taking a break on an abandoned car seat in Oniontown. ©Nadia Shira Cohen
  • Ashley in her mother's trailer in Oniontown looks over at the trailer next door, which is constantly in dispute with her mother's trailer as the two mother's of each respective home do not get along. ©Nadia Shira Cohen