A resource exploring what home means to each of us, how we can represent places of significance through photography and define our sense of home.

Part of Brighton Photo Biennial 2018


The assignments here are designed to encourage investigation of our notions of home. Home is such a simple word and yet it conjures up a complex range of feelings.

A home can be a building or a place. Forced displacement through war, conflict and violence has resulted in a desperate quest by many for new homes, often in unlikely locations. Homes can be static or mobile, safe or treacherous, like nests or prisons.

I. Where The Heart Is

Where do you feel most at home? This could be a particular room in your own flat or house. But it might also be somewhere else, where you have a greatest sense of belonging – at a friend’s place, at school, on the football pitch, on stage etc.

What defines a sense of home for you? Given an empty space, what would you need to add before feeling most at home?

© Hrair Sarkissian, Homesick

Take one or more pictures of the place where you feel most at home, most comfortable, most like yourself. 

Carefully consider your framing and composition – how you might best emphasise this significant space. What is important – is it the architecture, the lighting, the people, the objects, or something else? What of the atmosphere, the feeling of home, or even the sounds and smells – how might your photographs suggest what can’t be easily seen?


What part do photographs play in your family home? Which, if any, are prominently displayed, and why? – Who chooses which images take pride of place? Do these photographs tend to be snapshots or more formal? What would happen if you were to change these images, either discretely or through discussion?

You might be interested in:
Hrair Sarkissian, Homesick, 2014
Simryn Gill, Dalam, 2001

Some useful words: sense of place, sanctuary, refuge; subjective, objective; formal, vernacular, snapshot

Home is where I want to be and feel safe, among the things that I have created, gathered and tied myself to, […] it is a place where I can find refuge: the door separates the outside from the inside.

Hrair Sarkissian

II. These Four Walls

Wherever you call home, it’s often difficult to see it with unfamiliar eyes. We become accustomed to our surroundings and tend to take them for granted.

Photography can be a way to reconsider the familiar – to reinterpret what we see and make the ordinary seem strange, unfamiliar, more poetic. A photograph is a new fact. The process of looking intently at something through a lens can cause us to reassess and appreciate it.

© Celine Marchbank, Hove I from Town Portfolio, 2018

Look intensely at your surroundings. Notice the various surfaces and objects that surround you. Watch the way the light changes, disguising and revealing what seems so familiar. Try to create a set of pictures that might not be instantly recognised by anyone else who knows the location.

Consider how poetry or song lyrics can sometimes be hard to unravel at first reading (or hearing). But then, with time and attention, a more meaningful connection might be made. With this in mind, how, through sequencing a set of your photographs – in a book or slideshow, for example – might you create a more open-ended poetic response?


If you were to present this work to others, what sounds could you record or select to play simultaneously that best emphasise your home? For example, recorded conversations or background noises such as a tv, siblings playing, the preparation of food, the distant bustle of a city, or the a hum of a lawnmower, even.

You might be interested in:
Celine Marchbank, Town Portfolio, 2018-2019
Keith Arnatt, Notes from Jo, 1991-1995
Nigel Shafran, Dark Rooms, 2016

Some useful words: mundane, commonplace, banal, prosaic; understated, subtle, refined; sequencing, narrative, rhythm, flow, cadence

Sometimes I see old photographs, and what’s interesting to me are the things on the edges that are not meant to be there, the soap packet, the bit of litter, the things we relate to and hold that everydayness.

Nigel Shafran

III. Home and Away

Often journeys begin at home. They take us away from a place of familiarity and out into the world. Later, hopefully, we can return home to rest, relax and reflect on our adventures.

However, with new experiences, our feelings and perceptions of home are subject to change, even if surface appearances – and even the presence of others – initially appear unaltered.

© Tereza Červeňová, La Manche

Document a journey with photographs beginning and ending in a place you call home. Think carefully about the types of pictures you might want to make. 

Will you concentrate on important moments during your journey (“decisive moments” as Henri Cartier-Bresson might have called them) or will you try to capture the in-between bits – the queueing, the waiting, the hanging around? You might give yourself some rules to follow. For example, you could try to take a photograph every ten minutes, setting an alarm to remind you. 

You might decide to flip a coin each time you reach a junction – heads is right, tails is left. You might decide to photograph particular things along the way – bus shelters, red front doors, yellow cars etc.


What happens when you arrange or view your pictures in the order that you took them. What do they reveal about your journey? How might even the shortest of journeys result in a subtle change in your perspective – for example, increased confidence in taking photographs of others, or noticing a familiar environment in a new way?

You might be interested in:
Ameena Rojee, El Camino, 2016
Tom Wood, Linzyluvspointy, Whitechapel, 1994

Some useful words: dérive, expedition, wanderlust; flâneur; investigation, typology; chance and order

Often, walking becomes an exercise in looking; looking at your surroundings, looking at yourself and looking inside your own mind.

Ameena Rojee

IV. Family Snaps

We associate the idea of home with the family. Like homes, families come in all shapes and sizes. The family snap is a particular kind of photograph – a group portrait, shot straight on from about 10 feet away, everyone in focus and smiling. 

Sometimes photographers experiment with this genre in order to reveal the complexities and pressures faced by the modern family, but also the humour and joy to be found in family life.

© Tereza Červeňová, Larach Jean

Experiment with the form of the family photograph. You could begin by making some classic group portraits, typical of the genre, before continuing to experiment with increasingly unconventional views. 

How might you subvert, disrupt or simply play with the expectations of a family portrait? Who would be essential to your family portrait? How might missing family members be represented? 


What happens when your participating members exaggerate gestures or exchange characteristics and poses (or clothes, even!)? What is the most unconventional place you might take or display (and re-photograph) a family portrait?

You might be interested in:
Trish Morrissey, Front, 2006
Janine Antoni, Mom and Dad, 1994
John Clang, Being Together, 2010

Some useful words: clan, alliance, kindred; staged, posture, facade; construct, (mis)represent, amplify

I was making a fake family album […] initially I had all the members of my family playing themselves as younger. It just became very very complicated. Then a mentor suggested that I play all the parts with just one other sibling. It was like a breakthrough moment because I realised that I could do exactly what I wanted.

Trish Morrissey

V. Featured Artist: Harley Weir

Harley Weir’s Homes (2016) is on show at Fabrica, a 200-year-old former Regency church in the heart of Brighton’s busy Lanes. The images were taken over a period of ten days in Calais’ refugee camps prior to – and during – their emptying and eventual destruction.

The camps, informally known as ‘The Jungle’, were at one point home to over 8,000 men, women and children hoping to cross the Channel in search of a better life. Living conditions in the camps were widely described as dangerous and inhumane, with an overwhelming sense of displacement and grief.

Harley Weir has a background in fashion photography and was initially hesitant to tackle such a prominent issue. However, she felt compelled to raise awareness through her photography and to do so in a humane and sensitive way.

© Harley Weir, Untitled

Using photography, how might you raise awareness of an important issue? How might your creative work and positive actions be channeled to positive effect?

 Is there a local organisation or charity that you may be able to collaborate with? Consider how your photographs might contribute, for example, via fundraising, information sharing, or simply celebrating the good work of others.

How might you use photography to record something destined to disappear? 

Consider your local environment, the changes you can recall and those you might predict. What, via your photography, should be preserved?


I felt there was something lacking in the reportage images. […] I wanted to see things with my own eyes. […] I saw personality in their homes. I’m glad to have recorded these temporary spaces, so these homes and these people aren’t so easily erased.

Harley Weir

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