OpenWalls Home & Away: How does sense of place impact your work?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

For our very first OpenWalls award, we are inviting both emerging and established photographers, from all over the world, to submit work responding to the theme ‘Home & Away’. Up to 50 photographers will then be selected to exhibit their photographs as part of a group exhibition at Galerie Huit Arles in July 2019, to coincide with the 50th edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles.

The theme of the exhibition, ‘Home & Away’, is open to interpretation. We want to see images that capture a sense of belonging, escapism or identity, and play with notions of home or freedom. Do you find your inspiration at home, by photographing your loved ones, or do you seek inspiration further afield?

© Brandon Dare

For one of our featured photographers, Brandon Dare, home is at the heart of all his work. “There is a lot of emotion to be found in your home environment, in one way or another,” he explains, “through the people there, or shared memories of either sad or happy times.” Brandon’s projects have so far explored a range of different themes; one project is entrenched in the politics of his surrounding, post-industrial landscape, another follows a youth bike gang, but all have been inspired by his immediate environment. “I think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to leave your home to make meaningful work,” he says.

© Christopher Bethell

Christopher Bethell is inclined to agree, but for him, home is a more complex concept. Having dual British and American citizenship, but never having actually visited America, Christopher always thought of the US as a home he had not yet been to. He shot his MA project, The Duke of Earl, last year in America, as a way to document his understanding of this new, but strangely familiar place. “I found it hard initially not to photograph all of the cliches we’re so used to from the proliferation of America in the UK media,” he explains. “But after a while this faded and it became easier to see what was relevant and important to me.”

© Alexander Mourant, Aurelian

Christopher’s pilgrimage to the United States was in search of a sense of home, but for photographer Alexander Mourant, it is the very experience of pilgrimage that he seeks to convey in his work. Attempting to exemplify the connection between experience and place, Alexander’s photographs challenge the friction between our interior and exterior worlds. He admits, however, that shooting away from home has forever changed the way he creates work. “Before going to Africa, I viewed photography merely as an aesthetic document,” he says, “Now, photography has become a way of questioning and creating unforeseen connections.”

© Nicholas White

Nicholas White has always used photography as a tool for exploration and discovery, and has spent years shooting far from home, investigating human interactions with nature. “Shooting away from home is certainly a constructive exercise, as it presents a different set of challenges; principally, the unknown.” Nicholas’ latest project is shot in the Southern Carpathian Mountains of Romania, where he is documenting the formation of a new European Wilderness Reserve, and is working with an organisation who are purchasing large tracts of wilderness in order to protect the forest for future generations. “I hope that my photographs can act as an archive of sorts, documenting the rebirth of European wilderness,” he says.

As OpenWalls judge, and founder and director of OBSCURA Festival of Photography in Malaysia, Vignes Balasingham puts it, “Home & Away can be read as either the physicality of a home or the tracing of the trajectory away from it. It can also represent the outward and inward journey of spirit and a state of mind. There are also, naturally, contemporary issues on migration and older themes in the aspect of diaspora. The theme leaves a lot of room for different approaches of photography.”

© Jesse Burke, entry to OpenWalls 2018

Joining Vignes on the stellar judging panel are Clement Saccomani, managing director of NOOR Photo Agency; Julia de Bierre, owner of Galerie Huit Arles, and host of the exhibition; Daniel Miller, founder of photography collecting initiative; Genevieve Fussell, Senior Photo Editor at The New Yorker; and Simon Bainbridge, the Editorial Director of British Journal of Photography.

This is your last chance to apply to OpenWalls Arles 2020! Submit your work responding to the theme ‘growth’, and you could be part of a group show at Galerie Huit Arles alongside Les Rencontres d’Arles 2020. Deadline: 25 July 2019 23:59 (UK time)

© Alvaro Maria Gomez Pidal, entry to OpenWalls 2018
© Marco Marzocchi, entry to OpenWalls 2018
© Christian Michael Filardo, entry to OpenWalls 2018