From the Thatcher era to Brexit: photographs of British homes tell stories of the generations

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By Natalia Liubchenkova
From the Thatcher era to Brexit: photographs of British homes tell stories of the generations

Homes and interiors tell a story — both politically and culturally — of a whole country, according to Isabelle Bonnet, the curator of ‘Home Sweet Home’ photography exhibition.

The showcase presents a complex image of the British home, carefully documented by photographers from the sixties to the present day.

It is part of the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in southern France, which is celebrating its 50th year.

A new photography style that emerged in the sixties turned some photographers away from the streets and into the domestic space, documenting British homes instead, an important component of a nation's identity and political history.

At the same time, ‘what could highlight British photography better than the theme of home: so dear to the heart of British people?’ says Bonnet.

She walked Euronews through the exhibition, highlighting its most striking stories.

The exhibition is divided into chapters and the first one is about everyday life. The things that we probably wouldn’t notice in the daily routine if the photographers didn’t point them out to us, the curator explains.

Andy Sewell
'Something like a Nest' series, 2014 (exposition 'Home Sweet Home').Andy Sewell

The chapter ‘After Windrush, a multicultural society’ tells the story of Empire Windrush cruise ship passengers who came to the UK from the Caribbean to take part in post-war reconstruction hoping for a brighter future. Perfect homes and photographs were very important for them - to convince the family back home that things were going well. For many, dealing with racism was an everyday reality.

Photographs of family homes during the Thatcher era immediately catch the eye, with their striking realism and Anthony Haughey’s impressive work with colour and light. He lived with one of the featured families for a year, capturing their everyday life and offering a window into how things were for the whole generation.

Edmund Clark has explored the so-called ‘Control order houses’ - the domestic spaces-turned- confinement. According to an anti-terrorism bill passed in 2005, the Home Office was allowed to restrict the civil liberties of individuals on the grounds of “reasonable suspicion”. A person under such suspicion could be separated from their home and family to be put under house arrest in a secret location.

The exhibition also gives a chance to look through the windows of some of the multi-storey council housing that was demolished due to the low-quality of its construction.

The Belgravia series by Karen Knorr in 1979-1981 offers a rare insight into the home of the elite, not only documenting their lifestyle in pictures but also eavesdropping on their conversations. Quotes including “There is nothing wrong with Privilege as long as you are ready to pay for it” or “You couldn’t get me to eat lentils even if you paid me £1 per lentil,” were captured from the owners of the flats in Belgravia, a wealthy district in central London.

The exhibition is open until the end of September.