A place to call Home
A place to call Home by Martin Doonan
A photographic look at how houses become homes
All text and photographs ÂŠ Martin Doonan, 2008 All rights reserved. No part of this book my be reproduced in any form or by any mechanical or electronic means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. A pdf version of this book will be available online. This pdf verson may be freely downloaded for personal, non-commercial use.
A place to call Home Living in an urban environment generally means living in neighbourhoods lined with identical houses or in large apartment blocks. Despite life in such anonymous surroundings, many people seek to impose their personality on their own living space, to distinguish their space from those around: to turn a house into a home. This project started as an interesting way to gain insights into the ways in which the inhabitants turn their living spaces into individual homes. It was an opportunity to take a closer look at a city that I merely know functionally.
Over time, however, I have observed more than the mere documentary aspects of this endeavour. For me, this has also turned into something of an exercise in social observation. It has also led to me learning and thinking deeper about the nature of urban living. In a city with a large transitory population â€“ foreign workers coming and going for short work assignments â€“ there is a surprising amount of adaptation being applied to living spaces. This may come from the need to feel attached to something or somewhere whilst experiencing a nomadic lifestyle.
It is often said that living in close proximity to others destroys the sense of personal space and yet many strive to create a sense of separation. Perhaps it is a craving to be away from the cramped urban environment, a desire for something more rural. Therein in lies a dichotomy of urban living: the convenience of facility versus with the desire for space.
Covering a wide area has shown that often individual touches seen in one area are part of a wider theme, that patterns repeat. In other ways signs of individuality in one area are developed into neighbourhood characteristics in others. There are also other common themes that manifest: functional development, ornaments, window decoration.
There are areas that have broader displays of individual taste than others. Sometimes areas that I expected to be rich in material were not, and yet others were full of surprises. In walking the streets through the various neighbourhoods this project has turned into more of an exercise in social observation.
In some cases objects are placed for personal pleasure, for the viewing of the inhabitants. In others such effects are turned outwards for the delight of the passer-by. Personal effects become a public display.
In the first instance I was afraid that I would be constrained into presenting an endless string of window boxes, passing into limited clichĂŠd views. It quickly became apparent that there was more to show than that. The leafy suburbs, full of families and children playing, were also the most barren of subjects. Hedges and trees become a means to retreat in isolation.
All of the images in this book were made during the course of April and May 2008. They were taken during a series of walks around the city of The Hague, Netherlands, where I live and work. I have chosen to present this work in a way that reflects both the context and detail of a particular individual touch; paired images that show both the wider view and the close-up details. I hope that in this way one can gain both a sense of place and person at the same time. This project has been part of the international SoFoBoMo 2008, an idea by Paul Butzi.
Martin Doonan, May 2008 http://doonster.blogspot.com www.sofobomo.org First Edition 78