LONDONERS AT HOME:
The Way We Live Now
Part Three of the London Trilogy
BY MILAN SVANDERLIK
Text Editor: Gerald Stuart Burnett
Any civilisation may be justly judged by the way it treats the weakest members of society - its young, its old, its infirm, its insane, its convicts, and its destitute. What then would such a judgement be upon the United Kingdom in the year 2019, ‘Global Britain’, the world’s fifth richest nation? If you’re one to scorn the ‘nanny state’, never envisioning yourself supported by the welfare safety net, Daniel Lul’s story will show you a fit, young man in a good job who found himself massively incapacitated, then threatened with the withdrawal of benefits that would have put him on the street. We may all need the Welfare State at some point; that is why we must nurture it, not mutilate it with a thousand cuts.
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“Lingering he raised his latch at eve,
Though tired in heart and limb:
He loved no other place, and yet
Home was no home to him.”
S T Coleridge, 1772-1834
“It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home.”
Charles Dickens, 1812-1870
“The best / Thing we can do is to make wherever we’re lost / Look as much like home as we can.”
Christopher Fry, 1907-2005
“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;”
J H Payne, 1791-1852
Following his two most recent exhibitions, 100 Faces of London (2012) and Outsiders in London, Are you one, too? (2015) both of which highlighted the great diversity amongst Londoners, Milan has recently completed his third major project on life in the capital. While Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now, which forms the final part of his ‘London Trilogy’, can certainly be seen as furthering his interest in exploring the extraordinary diversity of the capital’s inhabitants and the lives they lead, in his latest project, Milan has stepped out from the studio and photographed people in their own homes or the places where they live.
Milan comments: “Of course, this concluding project is by no means unique; many artists have been fascinated, inspired even, by the domestic milieu of Londoners and, of course, every artist will view London and its denizens from a different perspective. A number of lives captured at a particular time helps create a record that enables us to see just how the circumstances of most Londoners are changing and evolving, though perhaps for the luckiest or unluckiest few, nothing ever seems to change very much.” Three months into the project, Milan discovered a sequence of photographs bearing almost the same name that he had selected himself: this was London at home, by Magda Segal. This talented artist had photographed Londoners during the period 1991-1993 and her book of the same name, with a foreword by Alan Bennett, was published in 1993, during which year an exhibition of her photographs was mounted at the Museum of London.
“I must admit,” Milan continues, “that having discovered this work, I was somewhat downhearted and, initially, I was rather inclined to abandon my own project altogether. However, on reflection, I decided to carry on; while the subject matter is broadly similar, I think I have a very different and equally original perspective on the way I perceive London and Londoners. Also, unlike Magda Segal’s work, where powerful images are left to speak for themselves, mine are accompanied by a substantial and unashamedly socio-political commentary. And even if viewers are tempted to draw comparisons, my latest project intriguingly demonstrates just how much Londoners’ lives have changed over a quarter of a century.”
Like its predecessors, Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now is a wholly non-commercial project. For a fuller description, please click on the following link: About the Project. As the outcome of two years’ dedicated, hard work, 64 subjects have been covered extensively and this final figure is very much a product of the extent to which volunteers could be encouraged to come forward in connection with a range of important topics. Any obvious omissions, and there are several, regrettably represent those occasions upon which considerable endeavour to secure suitable sitters proved fruitless.
Following the same pattern as the earlier parts of the trilogy, it was hoped that there will be an exhibition of the final project during the course of 2019/20. And, like its predecessors, it was originally envisaged that such an exhibition of Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now might be mounted in the Crypt Gallery at St Martin-in-the-Fields; alas, untoward events have unfortunately intervened. Following a major review of the church’s policy with regard to not-for-profit activity and the overriding need to generate income to sustain its extensive and vital charity work, all non-profit-making undertakings have been suspended for the time being; this means that Part III of the London Trilogy can no longer be exhibited there. Sadly, we are therefore obliged to look for an alternative venue.
Both preceding projects have been published in book form, with copies lodged, for posterity, in the British Library and the UK’s other ‘copyright libraries’. As it has not proved possible to secure a commercial publisher for Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now, it has been agreed that the concluding component of Milan’s ‘London Trilogy’ should be published by the photographer himself, with copies made available for purchase, at cost price, by sitters and any other interested parties.
In seeing the work on his ‘London Trilogy’ draw to a close, Milan was keen to acknowledge the vital contributions of others: “Once more, it has been a great privilege to be invited into the homes and lives of so many extraordinary people, people who allowed me to tell something of their life stories and to weave these into what has become a much larger picture. I thank everyone who has taken part as well as all those who have provided invaluable help and support. While I am the creator of this project, my partner, Gerald Burnett, has contributed a great deal to it too, as have you all, so I see it very much as our project! It has been created by Londoners and it is a celebration of this extraordinary city of ours, with all its highlights as well as some of its dark shadows.”
London at home
by Magda Segal, with foreword by Alan Bennett
Cornerhouse Publications, Manchester (1993)
A limited edition book is in the final stages of production and should be availabe in the early Autumn of 2019. Click here for further information.