Los hogares de mariscal sucre
Home. Such a simple word, only four letters, but one that encompasses a diverse range of meanings and connotations. It’s importance as a building block of community is elemental, and influences how we shape and perceive our own identity as individuals.
I spent the summer of 2015 in Pácora, a small town in the Department of Caldas in Colombia, working on a field project for my master’s studies (the International Field Program, at The New School). This project involved supporting residents, recently gifted with free housing, in the process of settling into their new homes. While there, however, I also had the opportunity to work on something a little more personal, this photographic series around the concept of “home.” For me it was part personal (as are all artistic endeavors), but also fed into the task of community building.
I have been exploring the concept of home, and what it means to me, for several years. This project gave me the opportunity to widen my perspective, and investigate what this idea means to others. It also gave the residents a time and space to ponder this idea of home for themselves, and how it may have transformed (or not) in respect to their most recent move.
Before getting down to the business of photographing, it was important for me that the residents had a role in the creation of the home portraits I was about to make. There was a collaborative element to the process that was, to me, as important (or more important) as the resulting images. To achieve this, I interviewed each individual or family, drawing from a list of questions I had prepared before hand. Some of these included:
Do you feel at home here?
Where is “here”; this housing unit? The apartment development as a whole? The town of Pácora?
Is it different than your previous home?
Did you bring important things from your old home, such as heirlooms?
Which room of this house do you spend the most time in, and why?
These were an attempt to discover what creates the sentiment of home; what was the role of personal objects, of people? What was the importance of place? The focus of the ensuing photographs depended on the responses to these questions. In an attempt to mold images to each family or experience, many different types of images were made. Portraits of special objects, of rooms, of people; all of these combine to tell a story about home, a special, personal space that each of them had created. The responses to the questions themselves also began to carry a weight. The final question, “How would you describe your home, from your heart, in only one sentence?” produced more or less what was at the core of their family and home experience, and thus is included alongside the images themselves (for my English audience I regret that I have kept them in their original Spanish; I did not wish to change any meanings through translation).
“Una bendición de Dios, por que nuestros hijos son un milagro ya que yo no podía tener hijos; pero Dios nos dio una bendición. Yo lo describiría como una bendición de Dios.” -Norbey Martínez Restrepo
“La paz y harmonía.” -Luz Marina Builes y Carolina Bermúdez Builes
“Mi hogar es lo que mas quiero, lo que mas amo, mis hijos.” -Diana Patricia Giraldo Ruiz
“Un milagro de Dios, yo creo que Dios solo nos da lo mejor, y yo les doy muchas gracias a Dios por mi esposo y mis hijos.” -Liliana Castaño Díaz
“El mejor regalo que nos pudo haber dado Dios.” -Claudia Flórez
“Hermoso.” -Lina Marely Montes Londoño
All of the apartments I visited were identical, but the people living in them were not. Each family was unique, in their thoughts and priorities, but also the way in which they utilized their living space. I wanted to show the wider community that they were not simply apartment blocks and floor numbers and apartment numbers, but people.
Finally, although all of the individual families lived in their own units, in the end almost all of them cited that they felt at home in the community at large; that neighbors and friends were integral. And as I was editing the photos, and sequencing them, it struck me that visually the apartments seem as parts of one large house, and the people inside as one large family, simply living in different rooms. I take this sentiment to heart, as the settling in process is still ongoing, and have hope that they can also come this conclusion.
A los residentes, todos ustedes son una familia, y le doy muchisimas gracias por haberme invitado al dentro.