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HOME SWEET HOME: The British Home, A Political History

Written by Post-Grad Community
Published date 12 August 2019

Recent CSM MA Photography graduate Laura Blight tells us about her recent show at Rencontres d'Arles, a prestigious photography festival that has been running since 1970 in the city of Arles, France.

This year marks the 50th year anniversary with 50 exhibitions and after last years criticism, includes many more female photographers. The festival celebrates long-standing, established photographers along with emerging talent and runs from 1st July - 22nd September.

'Home Sweet Home' is an exhibition about the political history of British interiors since the 1970 and beyond featuring over 30 British photographers. The show has been curated by Isa Bonnet who lives and works in Paris. Not only does the show include the likes of Martin Parr, David Stewart, Sirkka-Liisa Konttien, Anna Fox and Gillan Wearing but also includes names who've studied and teach at LCC! Including Tom Hunter, Natasha Carauna, Juno Calypso and recent graduate Laura Blight.

We spoke to Laura after returning from Arles for the opening week of the festival about how her involvement in the show came about and her top tips for the festival whether you're going for work or pleasure.

Gallery

The venture began when I got an email out the blue from Isa back in December 2017, I was living in Australia at the time and was slightly flabbergasted when Isa said she would like to include some of my interior 'House Clearance' photographs in an exhibition she was curating in Arles. Although I'd never been, I think if you are a photographer then you most likely would have heard of Arles. I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to be in the show but there was a part of me that didn't quite believe it was real. Receiving an email from a curator who I'd never met seemed like a rare occurrence in the competitive world of photography but it just goes to show it can happen!

I'm exhibiting five photographs in the show that I shot on 120mm film in 2010 for my final BA degree show at Middlesex. I worked with the local council in Essex to gain access to properties where the owner or tenant had passed away leaving only traces of human occupation behind.

I'm really interested in the play between the familiar and unfamiliar in domestic environments. The interiors that I photographed were very much spaces in transition; in-between habitual use. I photographed untouched, discarded objects and furniture that had been left behind.

More than half of the photographers exhibiting in the show were present during the opening week. On Thursday 4th July myself, along with many of the photographers and the curator had a private tour of ‘Home Sweet Home’ with Brett Rogers the Director of The Photographers Gallery and The Centre Pompidou. This was a fantastic opportunity for each photographer to speak about their work. We also had a collective book signing of ‘Home Sweet Home’. It was a real honour to be in the presence of so many talented photographers.

Firstly, Arles in hot! It peaked 38 degrees when I was there for the opening week and quite a lot of the exhibition spaces don't have air-con so it reached up to 40 degrees! Arles is incredible as you can view exhibitions in the most amazing spaces including chapels, monasteries, amphitheatres under the stars plus, they're lots of abandoned buildings that get taken over to show work for the festival. For example, ‘Home Sweet Home’ is being shown in Maison des Peintres meaning 'House of Painters'.

Although Arles is very walkable, there is always so much to see so I would advise planning your day first and take a fan! I loved Marina Gaddoneix's meticulously produced project on natural disasters ‘Phenomena” that she produced on her residency at The National Centre for Space Studies. I also loved the ‘Dummy Book award’ where you can view hundreds of unpublished experimental and innovative books.

“The festival really does take over this entire, beautiful City so if you’ve always wanted to go but never made it, I highly recommend giving it a go.”