“For me, photography was more of a need, because I was going through a personal crisis. I had lost a friend, and I had to find a way of living again.” At the beginning of last year Debmalya Roy Choudhuri travelled to Rishikesh, a city in northern India, at the foot of the Himalayas, known as the “yoga capital of the world”.
He wanted to remove himself from the urban chaos and violence in his hometown, Kolkata, and challenge the idea of home as defined by four walls. “I had a very difficult childhood where I had to confront a lot of darkness,” says Choudhuri, who was sick for a long time. “I grew up in a very confined space. My parents went through a lot of problems and my family fell apart.”
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? 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 …
Rome-based photographer Francesca Pompei is our first OpenWalls Editor’s Pick photographer, having been selected by our online editor Diane Smyth as one of this month’s best entries, and voted for on social media by our readers. Her work is focused on art and architecture, and she rarely features people in her photographs, with the exception of her father. Francesca is a member of the board of the Italian Association of Professional Photographers, and her photographs have been exhibited at events worldwide, from Art Basel Miami, to Frieze Art Fair in New York, and KAIF-Korean International Art Fair in Seoul. In 2016, her works were among the top rated entries to the Magnum Photography Awards. Francesca entered OpenWalls because exhibiting in Arles has long been an ambition of hers. Her selected image responds to the notion of home, and captures her father at the Centrale Montemartini, which is one of Francesca’s favourite places to visit in Rome. Keeping up a long-held tradition of going on a Saturday outing with her father, Francesca cites these weekly trips …
When he first heard about the HOME project, Brighton-based photographer Mark Power’s immediate reaction was to make something personal. “Home is such an abstract concept,” he says. “For instance, if I’ve been travelling abroad for a while I’d probably consider my home to be England. If I’m already there, then I might think of Brighton as home. In Brighton I’d probably think of my house.” Ultimately though ‘home’ translates as family for him, and by coincidence the project landed just as his family was undergoing seismic change. “By chance, the subject was staring me in the face – our daughter Chilli was leaving home in September, moving to London to begin a degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University,” explains Power. “Ironically, this date coincided almost exactly with the deadline to deliver the final project.”
New York in 1968, Alessandra Sanguinetti’s family moved to Argentina when she was two years old. She lived there until 2003, but is now based in San Francisco – for her, she says, home is two places. “I was in Buenos Aires when the project was proposed,” says Sanguinetti. “My parents still live in the same apartment where I grew up. It’s where I stay when I’m down there, so it felt natural to make work in my childhood home. “Where you grow up becomes a reference for what home should and shouldn’t be,” she observes. “Patterns and habits and a sense of personal space are probably embedded within you and defined by your personal home, so what might seem like just another apartment to an outsider was a goldmine for me.” A lock, a stash of hidden money, jars labelled ‘Never Open’ – Sanguinetti hones in on domestic details, as well as the people close to her, especially her mother and father. Under her lens, they’re shown up close in raw detail, and looking …
“For me home is a very difficult concept because I was born in Peru, but grew up in Spain and lived in America,” Moises Saman tells me over the phone from his current base – Tokyo, Japan. “At first I was confused because I’ve moved around so much in the past few years. So for this project, I took the opportunity as a way to trace back to where I was born.” Born in Lima in 1968, Moises Saman relocated to Barcelona, Spain with his family when he was just one year old. He spent a month travelling in Kosovo photographing the immediate aftermath of the last Balkan war; during his seven-year stint at Newsday as a staff photographer, he covered the fall out of the 9/11 attacks, and spent an extensive amount of time in Middle Eastern countries before becoming a freelance photographer.
“I wonder what it will be like looking at them in twenty years,” write Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen of his contribution to the HOME group project. “This time capsule from when Anna and I were young, and the kids were just two bundles of limitless potential.” Born in 1977, Bendiksen is still young enough to be adding to his family, and shot his contribution to HOME last summer, “when Bille arrived and Boe went from being our little baby to being a big sister”. It’s a time he’ll never forget, he says, though it revolved around the simple things in life – playing, eating, being at home. “That’s what life was about at the time, so it seemed a bizarrely appropriate reason to photograph these events,” he says.
When the HOME project was proposed to her, Olivia Arthur was heavily pregnant with her second daughter and focussing that seemed a natural choice. “But in terms of presenting it as a project to the outside world, I think what’s interesting is this period of waiting – that’s where it all becomes very personal,” she says. Aptly titled Waiting for Lorelai, the project became about the anticipation she and her family experienced in the lead-up to the birth. “There’s this kind of emotion about how much it’s going to change the dynamics between us,” says Arthur, “and how my [older] daughter’s going to react when she finds out it’s not just her.”
“It’s amazing how such a seemingly simple, common and universal concept as ‘home’ actually becomes incredibly complicated and difficult to pin down, once you really start to consider it on a personal level,” says Aaron Schuman, curator of this year’s JaipurPhoto festival in India, which is themed Homeward Bound. After discussing with the festival’s artistic director, Lola MacDougall, he discovered that JaipurPhoto was originally established as an “open-air travel photography festival”, a label he was initially wary of. For him, the term travel photography “generally alludes to a type of imagery that’s often rather simplistic, generic, stereotypical or predictable”, he says – but he liked 2017 edition of the festival, which was guest-curated by Federica Chiocchetti and themed Wanderlust.
“This portrait does not simply show a man who earns a living as a tattoo artist but the reason why that living is so important to him – his family,” says Jamain Gordon, reflecting on the portrait of Ricardo and his daughter outside their home and tattoo parlour in the South American country of Guyana. “It was Ricardo who wanted to have his daughter in the photograph and the warmth of their relationship can clearly be seen.” The image is now featured in a photobook, One People, One Nation, One Destiny, which shows the traditions and culture of this small but proud country.