What does “home” mean to you? That may well have changed over the last few months. As the world has been asked to retreat inside, those of us who are lucky enough to find comfort in the places we live have done so with relish, and previously overlooked phenomenons – the whistle of a kettle or the view out of a window - have become unexpected sources of joy. Back in May, with most of us in lockdown, How To Spend It asked readers and contributors to send in images that encapsulated “home”. The results were intimate, beautiful, and witty, ranging from children playing dress-up to key workers on their breaks.
PHmuseum, a curated platform dedicated to discovering and promoting photographers, had a similar idea for the second edition of its Mobile Photography Prize, an initiative aimed at exploring how mobile devices are changing the way we communicate. This year, participants submitted images based around the theme of “Inside - Home, Family, and Community in a Historical Collective Moment”, and How To Spend It was asked to help compile a shortlist for one of the categories.
“We were looking for images that resonated with us, that had a strong sense of narrative,” says Rasha Kahil, How To Spend It’s creative director, who was tasked with making the selection along with photo editor Katie Webb. “A lot of these images have a surprising way of portraying domestic scenes. They feel fresh.” Take Emese Altnoder’s image of a cat stretching. “It's a double-exposure, which makes it feel both familiar and strange at the same time,” adds Kahil. “The effect almost looks painterly.”
While some photos are exceptionally tender (see Ionut Maga’s image of a mother and son embracing behind a veil), many of the 16 entries selected address feelings of isolation. “There’s a sense of enclosure, but also voyeurism and observing from afar,” says Kahil of Sarah Burton’s snapshot of her son, Ira, who has climbed over his sleeping father in order to see out of the window. For Webb, claustrophobia is best expressed in Rhiannon Adam’s picture of Arlington House in Margate, where one resident’s window carries slogans pushing a second EU referendum, seemingly alone in a district that voted in favour of leaving the European Union. “It reminds me of the German photographer Andreas Gursky,” she says. “A lot of these images feel like an emotional reaction. There’s thought behind them.”