Like birth and death, home is both a universal fact of our existence and something that we experience completely differently according to our circumstances. Everyone who lives, lives somewhere, but that place may be transitory or permanent. It could be a house where a family has dwelled for generations. Home might be where you feel most safe, most yourself, or it might be stifling, dull, even deeply traumatic. “Perhaps,” as the writer James Baldwin put it, “home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”
Baldwin’s words appear in the description of Life Framer Photography Prize’s collection Home Sweet Home – a theme which feels especially timely as we emerge, to varying degrees, into the world after a succession of lockdowns. We have spent more time at home than ever before. The winners and shortlist, chosen by conceptual documentary photographer Marion Tandé, who is Manager of the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, reflect multiple types of habitats – touching on questions of urbanism, familial relationships, mental health and gender.
In Chloe Meynier’s winning image, taken from her self-portraiture series Made in the Shade, an anonymous barefoot woman is seen from behind, seated in her living room. The Mid-Century elegance of her decor and sepia-like hues reference the 1960s, an era when (some) women were forging a newfound independence in the workplace and in their relationships, breaking away from the domestic sphere to which they’d been confined. Stripped of context but ripe with narrative, the image invites us to insert our own ideas about this woman’s identity and desires.
Aesthetica Art Prize alumnus Julia Fullerton-Batten also features in the selection with a photograph from Looking Out From Within, a series of portraits taken through the windows of her neighbours’ homes in West London. There’s something wistful about this shot, with its soft pink-blue tones. With no houses on the other side of the road, it feels like the subject, Ann, is teetering precariously on the edge of the world. The agoraphobic atmosphere finds an interesting contrast in Vitaly Golovaty’s shortlisted image of a swimming pool incongruously surrounded by skyscrapers in Shenzhen. The monumental scale of the buildings juxtaposed with the minuscule human forms drive home what it means to live in a megacity today.
Not everyone has the luxury of choosing their home, but for those that do it can be a source of liberation, an opportunity to forge new ways of being in the world. As in Chloe Meynier’s shot, Julie Masson’s image also shows a woman in her living room – but this time she’s in her van. This cosy space, with its celebratory bunting hanging from the roof, a coffee just brewed, has the welcoming feel of a den. It speaks to the trend for tiny houses where inside and outside blur. Everything has its rightful spot; this image reminds us that one person’s vehicle is another person’s palace. As Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home.”
See the full selection of images here.
Words: Rachel Segal Hamilton
1. Vitaly Golovaty
2. Julia Fullerton-Batten
3. Chloe Meynier
4. Julie Masson