Online exhibition explores themes of domesticity

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Online exhibition explores themes of domesticity
France, Neuilly-Plaisance, September 4, 2018, Agata © Bieke Depoorter / Magnum Photos.

LONDON.- The Magnum Gallery is presenting “There’s no place like home” an exhibition which explores themes of domesticity, sheltering, interiority and the comfort of personal spaces and objects in difficult times. The exhibition is exclusively on view online from 19 May to 31 August 2021 and brings together works of Magnum photographers Antoine d’Agata, Raymond Depardon, Bieke Depoorter, Bruce Gilden, Harry Gruyaert, Gregory Halpern, Peter Marlow, Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr, Paolo Pellegrin, Alessandra Sanguinetti, and Alec Soth.

Resonating with much of current human experience around the world, the exhibition reflects on the concept of home as a central place for solace and security which can promise hope and a more favourable future during complex, long and uncertain moments in life. “There’s no place like home” examines how personal spaces— both mental and tangible— the sense of belonging, the act of sheltering and shared human experiences have brought optimism and healing.

While recommendations from governments to ‘stay at home’ have been issued around the world in the wake of the pandemic, creative pursuits, and human connections have helped on the long road to recovery and the return to light. Questioning the very definition of home, envisaging space as a nurturing and comfortable means to reach peace and safety, the exhibition features Magnum photographers working around a common set of reflections.

The exhibition includes a selection of works from Antoine d’Agata’s most recent critically-acclaimed series VIRUS. From the first day of lockdown following the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic in March 2020, d’Agata roamed the streets of Paris with a thermal camera to record the viral epidemic that turned the city into a strange theatre of buildings, wandering souls, and fleeing bodies. His resulting orange, yellow, purple and black images of houses convey a psychedelic impression of a dystopian future.

Bieke Depoorter’s cinematic photograph presented in the exhibition centres on Agata, a dancer who, in the dark hours following her 24th birthday, invited Depoorter to her house. Their mutual connection and intimacy resulted in a series of works which touch on enigmatic settings, complete trust and an intriguing communion of spirits. In this series, reminiscent of David Lynch and the golden era of Hollywood cinema, Agata and Depoorter’s rapport epitomises the concept of safe connections.

Peter Marlow’s poetic series, ‘Eel Pie Island, Sycamores' Gladys Heaths house on the island’ from 2001, spotlights the loneliness of elderly people in their homes, fixing the passage of time. Empty rooms, a lonely toothbrush, desolate sofas and old televisions feature in these remarkable images which melange vibrant colours with the inherent sadness of people and their personal objects.

In dialogue with Marlow’s interior scenes are Martin Parr’s two iconic images of England, 'We wanted a cottagey stately home kind of feel' from 1991. They feature a light socket and a quotidian scene of a man mowing his lawn. Themes of daily life, boredom and routine have occupied Parr for much of his career, all of which are explored with remarkable irony in these two works.

The parallels between Gregory Halpern’s Buffalo, NY 2011 and Alec Soth’s Minneapolis, 2017 , works will be evident to the viewers. Halpern has said, "Photographers have a way of organizing / simplifying the chaos that is the world around us. And it is said that photography is uniquely suited to ‘reflect’ the world around us, but what if our surroundings are complex to the point of being visually and verbally indescribable? That conundrum is the reality I want to reflect, with the creation of a rightfully impenetrable thing." Both photographers depict America’s difficult social realities exacerbated today by the terrible pandemic. Their work is both rooted in the real and the sublime.

Further highlights include three iconic black and white images by Bruce Gilden staging, respectively, an empty sofa, a beach scene on Coney Island and a New York City couple. Known for his graphic and often confrontational close-ups made using flash, his images have a degree of intimacy and directness that have become his signature. "I was working on my Foreclosure project titled No Place Like Home in a development outside Las Vegas, Nevada called Fernley. As we were driving through the development I saw this lonely couch which had been thrown out. It was in front of a house that seemed to be empty and it felt almost like a strange invitation to sit down." Bruce Gilden said in 2021 about his striking work. He added, “I was on the beach in Coney island when I saw this woman in her bathing attire. As I was kneeling on the sand taking photos of her from close range with my 28mm lens, someone came up to her and asked her what I was taking photos of. She pointed at me and by doing this, it made my photograph."

Offering more hope toward a return to normal life and outside leisure are Harry Gruyaert’s vibrant compositions also on view in the show, ‘Boom Fair’ from 1981 and ‘Brabant, Commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo’, 1981. “When I was working on Belgium in the ‘70s, I took pictures of a great number of processions and carnivals. I was more interested by the people coming out of their homes to watch what was going on than by the processions themselves. It gave me the impression I was going inside their home, into their living room."

Alessandra Sanguinetti’s poetic works on view, ‘Daddy’s shoes’, Argentina, 2017, ‘The Black Cloud’, 2000, and ‘Belinda with Rosita’, 2018 close the exhibition on a positive note. The photographer’s images stress the importance of simple human connections and the significance of a relationship with nature.

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