In a “Theory of Human Motivation”, American psychologist Abraham Maslow outlined his view of our needs by placing them into an aspirational pyramid. Beyond feeding and watering our bodies came the fundamental hunt for security. The fire lit cave, the elevated perch-the search for a home is ubiquitous.
Over the following ten weeks, Guernica Magazine will present documentary photography on the theme ‘Home.’ In Ramin Talaie’s introductory photograph from Iran, a paper thin mattress, as bright as its occupants’ drug riddled nights must truly be dark, presents a reminder of the most basic function of a home: to provide a place to sleep. In Filippo Mutani’s images from the recent earthquake in Peru, people displaced by the rumblings of the earth find that their familiar places to sleep have been buried under rubble.
Climbing Maslow’s pyramid, we find other needs. Human beings are social animals. If a child’s guardian is barred from parenting, and societal acceptance is barred from the child, such as in Markel Redondo‘s photographs of the children of Chinese inmates, what happens to the idea of home? And climbing further, we arrive at aesthetic needs, seemingly satisfied in the bourgeois home interiors depicted by Julia Gillard. These images pose a question: when does a beautiful home go from luxury to cage?
In a very different environment, when East Germany fused with its Western brother, welfare went from being secured by the state to being “secured” by the market. Daniel Rosenthal‘s photographs of an Eric Honecker-era style hostel in Berlin capture the emotional power of belonging to a political system and also nostalgia for a set of ideals.
At the opposite extreme, what do Paolo Pellegrin‘s cloudy, haunting, four-year-old images of the ongoing conflict in Darfur tell of our powers to reach out and provide shelter for those whose lives are at best delayed, at worst destroyed by horse riders and impotent international cajoling?
In all of these images, cracks appear-in nations, families, facades, hearts.
For the lucky few, the notion of home conjures nostalgic memories that interlace images and emotions. For many more, there is flight and temporary solutions, and the notion of home remains just that: a notion. —Ann Tornkvist
Ann Tornkvist, born in Bahrain, studied print journalism and photojournalism at Columbia University. Her master’s thesis on war photography in the fine art market was published in Guernica Magazine and SFoto, the journal of professional photographers in Sweden. She edited the Magnum Blog before relocating to London where she works as a photo editor.