“What is ‘home’?” writes Magnum Photos curator Pauline Vermare. “Instinctively, the idea of peaceful haven comes to mind. A cocoon where one feels secure, loved and understood – a nurturing and forgiving place.”
It’s a topic she’s been thinking about in depth, because back in 2017 Fujifilm invited Magnum Photos to collaborate on an ambitious group project, which eventually saw 16 of its documentary photographers reflect on the idea of ‘home’. These photographers are better-known for documenting the lives of others, but in this project, they were able to create intensely personal work instead.
“This project provided photographers with an ideal pretext to explore a place they held dear, a familiar and familial landscape,” says Vermare. “It was an invitation to look inward and outward. Home – an inherently intimate and introspective subject matter – was also a formidable challenge to take on; for the past seventy years, Magnum photographers have predominantly been looking into the lives of others – and seldom looking into their own.”
Some photographers chose to focus on their present homes, others returned to where they grew up. For some, the challenge lay in a lingering feeling of dislocation, “the fact of having more than one home and the yearning to document them all”, says Vermare. Moises Saman chose to return to his Peruvian birthplace, for example, where he experienced a mingled sense of familiarity and foreignness; Alessandra Sanguinetti, who considers both Argentina and California ‘home’, created a similar sense of ambivalence.
“Many chose photography precisely because they needed to venture away from a home in which they didn’t quite belong,” observes Vermare. “Resilience meant rejecting it, travelling to other places, meeting other people – using the camera to escape.”
By contrast, Mark Power, Olivia Arthur and Jonas Bendiksen turned their lenses on their current homes, documenting aspects of their family life. These five photographers were joined by 11 others – Alec Soth, Alex Majoli, Alex Webb, Antoine D’Agata, Chien-Chi Chang, David Alan Harvey, Elliot Erwitt, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Hiroji Kubota, Thomas Dworzak, and Trent Parke.
Together these 16 short stories from over ten countries compose an intricate portrait of what home is, and of what it can be; the exhibition went on show in New York in March, and is now popping up in London, part of the Photo London week. Going forward it will travel to five other cites, and is also being published as a book.
It’s a project that provides no easy answers, says Vermare; if anything, it raises more questions about the idea of home, and about “profound and conflicting human feelings all at once – the inside and the outside, the pleasure and the pain”.
HOME, a collaboration between Fujifilm and Magnum Photos, runs from 18-27 May 2018 at The Vinyl Factory London; it was previously on show in New York, and will travel to five other cities. The photobook can be ordered from shop.magnumphotos.com. Further information on the project and international exhibitions is available on home-magnum.com