LONDONERS AT HOME: The Way We Live Now
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Milan's two previous projects, (2012) and (2015) were the first parts of what has evolved into his London Trilogy: this expansive work highlights the rich diversity amongst Londoners, evinces their cultural and ethnic origins, celebrates their achievements, marks the contributions they have made to the capital, and reveres their capacity for survival. In the final component of the Trilogy, Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now, 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.”
Some folk live in extended families, some in nuclear families, while others choose to live on their own, or are obliged by circumstances so to do. Some people live with pets or are surrounded by extensive collections of one sort or another; some choose to live in ‘minimalist’ homes while others like their abodes richly decorated, copiously ornamented and generously furnished, sometimes to the point where skirting boards are no longer to be seen - homes that would be anathema to those who long for what is modest, simple and practical.
For the unfortunate few, such temporary shelter as they can find on the streets may serve as their only home, while the more favoured amongst the indigent may be able to ‘sofa-surf’, doss on the floors of friends, or find a space in a commune or a squat. Well-to-do singletons may relax in en-suite bedrooms in some of the posh, new, communal-living ‘collectives’ located in the leafy suburbs, while their less fortunate peers have to make do with more humdrum flat-shares and lodgings in less salubrious parts of town. Some elderly and disabled Londoners’ lives are confined to sheltered accommodation, where there is support and supervision at hand; some live in nursing homes or homes for old folks; while others manage to carry on living in their own homes, dependent on carers or surrounded with the panoply of essential equipment that keeps daily life manageable.
A tent may serve as a makeshift temporary home for some Londoners, while others thrive on impermanence and are delighted to live in houseboats or narrowboats or caravans - even converted garages, garden sheds and tree houses provide other Londoners with roofs over their heads.
There are doubtless lots, lots more varieties of ‘London habitats’ but the above descriptions are intended to give a flavour of the great variety of dwellings that this project has encompassed - an open invitation was extended to anyone who cared to suggest such other abodes as the photographer might not even have contemplated.
In addition to addressing the question, ‘Where do we live?’, perhaps the most obvious but nonetheless fascinating dimension of Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now, the project goes on to consider,‘WHERE do we live?’ ‘WHO do we live with?’, ‘WHAT do we do?’, ‘WHENCE did we come?’, and ‘HOW are we different?’ and a wide variety of sitters has contributed to the substantial commentary that now offers extensive and illuminating answers to these existential questions.
In addition to reflecting the huge change that has taken place over the last quarter century with regard to the relationships between the people with whom Londoners share their living (and sometimes sleeping) quarters, the project also encompasses the increasing trend of residents who pursue professional, business or other work-related activities from their homes; it looks into the huge impact of immigration into the capital and the origins of the largest groups of migrants, the multifarious contributions they have made to the life of the city and how, in turn, London has itself impacted upon the lives of its most recent arrivals (including how Brexit might affect them); and, it focusses upon the domestic existence of some Londoners who, for one reason or another, are palpably different from everyone else.
Under these broad groupings,Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now, like Milan's earlier large-scale photographic projects, has been allowed to grow organically, and its final shape has in large part been determined by those sitters who have come forward. Once again, sitters were relied upon to recommend other sitters and to stimulate interest in the project by publicising it amongst their families, their friends, their work colleagues and their communities, and we offer thanks to everyone for this vital and invaluable assistance.
As was the case with its predecessors, Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now has been a completely non-commercial, artistic project that has grown and evolved on its own, dedicated website. All the sitters have been volunteers - no-one has been paid a fee to take part - but every participant should be seen as a unique and valued contributor to what has proved to be a truly revealing kaleidoscope of London life. Had we been fortunate and succeeded in acquiring funding and a suitable gallery space (the Crypt Gallery at St Martin-in-the-Fields was no longer available for this type of activity) the project would have culminated in a third public exhibition. Sadly, this was not to be; despite the expenditure of considerable time and effort, a suitable alternative space could not be identified.
Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now always aimed to comprise wholly non-judgmental observations of some of the denizens of our vast, capital city; the project started towards the end of 2016 and was completed at the end of 2018. These accumulated images and observations have, as was originally hoped, built into a fascinating tableau of the way we Londoners live now, in the second decade of the 21st century.
Text edited: 4th January 2020
Page modified: 4th January 2020