A primary human experience, the word ‘home’ evokes strong emotions in our own individual way. Whether it’s a physical manifestation like our beds or more sentimental associations, like a hug from a friend, we all familiar with the idea of home. This resonance has always intrigued my creative practice as much as it has in my personal life.

'Where the Heart Is' is a personal series that continues my exploration of our relationship with the concept of ‘home’. The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns took a toll on us, beyond just feeling "trapped". This series looks to encourage reflection of our relationship with ourselves and how we feel about our homes - as it became more than merely a place we rest in.

The series consists of 19 portraits taken during two nationwide lockdowns, adding colour to the participants’ anecdotes. Among others, I asked everyone, “what does home mean to you?” The replies reveal people citing home as a place of safety and comfort, while others spoke about being at home affected their relationship. Most responses are transcripts taken from diary entry style voice notes, whilst others are text messages from the subjects. One subject replied by writing a letter to me as they pondered on home and its meaning in their lives.

Our understanding of home and self may have changed or been challenged this year, which is okay. I hope that by seeing these photos and reading these experiences, you can feel connected.

How has your relationship been affected with the pandemic and home?

This is a funny one because for the last half of 2019 I was working in Newcastle on weekdays and only home on the weekends. So, we’ve gone from spending very little time together to spending every waking moment together. Honestly, I would think that I would have something interesting or profound to say about navigating relationships and overcoming relationship troubles when you’re in this situation but actually we haven’t really had any issues shifting into this new dynamic. It’s actually been really nice.I think we as a couple just look after each other quite well. I’ve been just really grateful spending every day with someone who loves me and cares about me and who I love and care about. Obviously throughout the year it’s been weird emotionally for everyone.I’ve had ups and downs, Allison’s had ups and downs, but we’ve been lucky that they haven’t really happened at the same time. When I’m feeling low Allison’s been able to be the joy and then vice versa and our flat is very small, but we’ve functioned well and enjoyed each other’s endless company. I just never get bored. I think that’s the key with any relationship really, you’ve got to always find them to be interesting. I’m lucky that she’s fun and kind and smart and deep so we can talk for hours about anything. Obviously we’ve been doing that a lot this year and so it’s only really served to remind me how well we suit each other.” - Chloe

What does home mean to you now?

“This is a really good question. This is the second time in my life where I’ve had to question what home means to me. When I moved to London from California and London began to start feeling more and more like home it was interesting feeling like this space feels like home, but my roots and my family of origin is in a different place. Both spaces started to feel like they fit and didn’t all at the same time and so to feel untethered from home in that season was really interesting. The thing then and even the way that I think about home now is that space where youfeel most yourself and most comfortable and most seen and loved. It is both tied to a place but also is more of a feeling and more of an experience, maybe? I think it’s interesting, this idea of, is home place or is home a more intangible thing? I very much feel at home whenever I’m with Chloe and there are certain people in my life that just feel homey. I think for me it maybe is less about a location and more about the environment that is created within a space.” - Allison

Additional introspection on home…

“I know it’s not necessarily what you asked me, but I guess it can be kind of relevant. Just before quarantine I went through a breakup. I’ve probably been spending a lot more time being a bit more introspective in my house. I feel like me keeping everything tidy is part of me trying to clear my mind if that make sense? As I said tidy room = tidy mind. I tidy my room; I clear my head. I’ve had a lot of time to, I guess, think about things. I don’t meditate a lot but I have done some meditation and so I think it is all part of me trying to keep the balance. If that makes sense?”

What has made you laugh the most during this time?

“Oh gosh. I don’t know if it’s like really sad that I can’t think of anything of the top of my head. It’s a bit sad that I can’t really think of the last time that I had a full belly laugh. We laugh together all the time. Will makes me laugh every day through lots of different things. It’s not like a stand-up comedian telling jokes or anything. I think it’s nice to be able to be quite silly around each other, or gross. There’s nothing that’s been something that makes me laugh the most. I laugh all the time; we have a good time.

This is a good one, so Will works from home. We’ll just be in the same room, together, during the working week. Something really caught me off guard a couple weeks ago. I must have had some music in, and he chucked a packet of post-it notes at me. On the top post it notes it said ‘turn me over’ and underneath that post-it note was like a note he’d written that said ‘you’re fit’ and it was obviously a big joke and he was pretending as if he was flirting with me, as if we were co-workers. It just caught me off guard him being silly like that it made me giggle and naturally I chucked the post-it note booklet back to him. The post-it notes that I’d written on, basically, I’d done a little phallic drawing and that was fun! It’s good times. It’s little moments like that where we can be a little silly with each other that make me laugh the most.” - Annie

What is your relationship with your home?

“I’ve always liked my home but now I love my home. In a way I didn’t appreciate before.I work in the living room there’s a certain point in the day, where if it’s a sunny day, the sun comes in and lights up the whole living room and makes it so warm. I love my street because there’s always stuff and people and I like that it feels lived in. It doesn’t feel transient like some of my other homes. I’ve always liked being home, but I do really love this home, I think. It’s just comfortable and safe and even though it’s my cousins it’s mine too. I love living with my cousin, I just think we get along so well. We’re very different characters in some ways. He’s very good with me because he does a lot more stuff than me and he never tells me off and if I like clean up his pan after dinner. He’s very thankful even though he’s like washed the whole bathroom floor and cleaned it. My cousin is just a lovely person, at least for me, to live with. He’s just nice to me all the time and always positive. It’s such a thing to live in a house with someone who is just always, never moaning, always just cheerful or finding something funny or singing to their songs in the kitchen while their working.
There was one thing, you might like this, something I read in a book the other day and I think it’s a nice way to see home. It had a little quote in it that says “Do you see the way people move through life and I mean just the little bits of their lives that you can see. Most of their movement through life is invisible it goes on inside them. For us life exists between the surface” and I thought that was a nice way to see it, because your body and your state of mind is your home, really. I thought that was a nice quote and it really resonated with me because people often ask, especially if I haven’t seen them in a while, how I am? And there’s two things that you’re socially supposed to reply to that question. One is to say I’m good/I’m bad and the second bit is to give an update on your life. The way that we have evolved how we respond to that question, because they’ve both come together, it’s like they should make sense. But sometimes I want to say I’m really good because I’ve felt really happy that month and content and whatever but then when I give the update on my life to someone else, because a lot of the life does go on inside you rather than to do with external things, I find it hard to explain why I’m really good because people are like; have you changed your job from the one you said you wanted to change? And it’s like no. Have you saved any money? Found a boyfriend? Done something exciting? And the answer is no to a lot of the things that I think would on paper justify being really good but if home is inside you... if I’m happy and content then I love my home, right?”

What does ‘home’ mean to you?

“As of lately, it means, myself. I take home with me everywhere I go because I’ve been moving around a lot lately. A lot of personal changes and it seems like I’ve called a lot of places home and it has changed my perception of what that means, massively. I realise that I can make anywhere my home it doesn’t necessarily need to have certain people or certain things. I think if I’m safe and solid and happy then I can call it home.” - Liz

What does home mean to you?

"Home is a sanctuary, a space where you can be most you & do your thing & also about bringing friends, your adopted fam wherever you live, and good vibes together. Place to feast, laugh, create, make & share good memories. Home is bears’ lair these days with my other half. A future dream home would be modern day extended fam living with our siblings, their other halves and my mum when she retires and pond hops on the reg, and room for visiting fam & friends." - Amy

What part of your home do you appreciate more?

“To be honest, I’ve been locked up in my room for God knows how long? If I think about it in the grand scheme of things my home, my room, my bedroom I wake up next to me is my little office where I work on. Then I have an easel in my room and I just get ready to paint and do my job and do my progressions of where I as an artist am trying to build myself to. You know what, I’ve actually started to appreciate the living room especially we as a family now sit together, chill with each other you know bussing up jokes and talking out our problems together. I feel like our living room has been such a big commune for me and my brother and my mum just to sit there and enjoy ourselves like a family. That’s what I appreciate the most.” - Kelly

What does home mean to you?

“When I reflect on the idea of ‘home' I start to think of it across these three 'spaces' too. My body and my mind are my home. My friends, my family, my community are my home. My room, my flat, any neighbourhood, my city, this planet are all my home. To feel that belonging we yearn for as humans I know I have to tend to each of these aspects with such love and care. These 'homes' are relational, intertwined. Relationships need to be nurtured to flourish.

When we went into lockdown for the first time my home very quickly shrunk. Or perhaps it's more fitting to say that the physical space I label as ‘home’ felt smaller because I suddenly had to fit lots more inside of one room. My bed, my 'office', my socialising, my relaxing. It came as a bit of a surprise to find how quickly I adapted, and how 'home' simultaneously expanded under these new conditions too.” - Ellie

How has being at home  much affected your relationship? 

“I love having her around. We're now doing workouts together and spending more time walking and talking. Lockdown has been a good reminder to be thankful for what we have. Although things aren't ideal, we still have our health, a home, food on the table and money coming in. I believe in our relationship. We've been together for over 7 years now and this is nothing that we can't overcome. Like always, she's there for me and I'm there for her.” - Sean

What does home mean to you now?

"Always growing up I think the definition of home has never really changed too much. I’ve always grown up in a very loving, supportive environment. In reflection of the last three months home is definitely a place filled with love, filled with support, comfort and also a place where you can feel vulnerable and you can feel whatever you need to feel and not feel guilty about that. Also, more so in the last two years home has become were Sean is. He is a big source of my love and support and comfort and pretty much all those things are what home means to me.” Steph

What does home mean to you?

“Home to me is just, I don’t know, somewhere I feel I can come back and kind of let out the sort of rigours of the day, whether that’s been a bad or a good day. Where I can relax and put on my music or come back and cook food in a space that’s familiar to me. A place where I can just, I don’t know? Where I can just feel comfortable. Excuse the dithering I’m just trying to give you something a bit more comprehensive as an answer. To an extent it’s now for me and was before in my previous home a place to come home to people you can share what’s been going on in your day with. Which was different when I was living with someone else that I wasn’t in a relationship with, then it is now, where I have two lovely flatmates who are great and stuff. I think that is part of my kind of thinking around the concept of home.”

What does home mean to you?

"My dad’s kind of always drilled in this thought that, ‘home’ should be this palace of yourself. You wanna take care of your home, you want to respect it, you want to get the nice luxury things that you want in your home. You want to bring good people to your house. That sort of thing and so I’ve always taken pride in my own house and always got the best internet, the best speakers, the best editing desk. The reason that he said this though, is that we spend most of our time at home. We sleep at home. We are there at least 10 hours of the day every day. So why not take care of it and invest in your own home? So ‘home’ to me is always going to be the place that my family brought me up in or when I eventually get my place it will be that place. Home to me right now is where my family is, where my friends are and where I feel comfortable, where I can be myself. It’s never been just four walls. My house could be outside in a park as long as I’m with my friends or with my family. It’s a community. That word ‘home’ has separated itself from ‘house’ now. Especially in this day and age. People will say females will turn a ‘house into a home’ and stuff like that. It’s so true, a home could literally be anywhere that you feel comfortable now." - Ty

What does home mean to you?

"Looking at what home means to me currently is definitely different to how it did in the past. So, I’d say in the past, I’ll start in the past before I go into now.I’d say the past I saw home as the opportunity for me to be my true self, for me to be truly comfortable. I always felt like I’ve always had to perform, to put on a face. I’ve been this very confident, loud, exuberant, extrovert. Which I am, which is a part of my personality but there are so many other factors of who I am. Especially growing up in the I grew up in, Croydon. Especially in school you had to seem hard. You had to seem like you liked these certain things and I used to pertain to that in a certain way. I guess at home I could really allow for my true interests to foster and be myself; dress a certain way, all that sort of thing. Obviously with time I gotmore confident and was able to be who I am at home, outside. I guess as a kid, as a teenager, right up to probably my early twenties. Actually, I’d say until college, I’d say home was my place to be comfortable and for me to be Gerald. Now I see home especially during lockdown, I guess it’s given me the opportunity to think about how I see home. I’m 28, I turned 28 in August of this year and what I’ve realised is home now is a sense of security. I don’t mean securities in terms of protection from life in terms of abuse, or robbery, or theft, or being beaten up or anything like that. I’d say what people would normally traditionally say home provides. I say security in terms of financial security because I know now that regardless of; If I’m ever broke or I’ve lost a job or I’ve moved out for a period and I need to come back or whatever or I’ve moved out and it hasn’t gone well, or a relationship has failed. This will always be my base. This will always be there for me regardless of anything. It gives me that confidence to know that I can take the risk, especially before I turn 30 anyway. I can take risk; I can be adventurous because fundamentally this will always be here. I’ll always have a roof over my head, I’ll always have food in my belly and those are the two core things you need in life…and a loving family, sorry! Make that three things. So, it’s given me a sense of security. I’m the kind of person that if I don’t like a job, I’ll just quit. A lot of people for financial security will have to stay in a job but knowing that I’ve got my home as my security and if I’m not enjoying something I can quit. I know that, I can say ‘ok cool mum and dad I’m not going to be able to help out with the bills and the rent like I normally do because I’ve just quit this job because I want to just focus on something else.’ I have great parents who trust me to be able to do that and being a creative that I am, sometimes you need that space just to create. I guess it’s given me that sense of security." - Gerald

How has this lockdown been different from the last?

“It’s actually been very different for me. The last lockdown I was living at home with my dad and my sister. Then when we were allowed to meet people outside I was going for walks nearly every day with my niece and nephew. I ended up quarantining with them for a little bit and we’d hang out a lot and they’re little they’re 4 and 2 and so it was very very family orientated. I was always around them and I didn’t really leave home that much to do anything else apart from shopping and the basics and I didn’t really see any friends. It was just my dad’s house and my brother’s house. This lockdown I’ve moved into my own place and so it’s been by myself which has been very interesting because I have genuinely loved it, but I do realise that I love spending time with people. I love my own company, but I like the act of service like cooking for friends or doing activities with friends or just having them over but obviously I couldn’t have that this time unless they were in my bubble which was fine because I was working. The difference was back in lockdown one I was with six people including my niece and nephew so there was a lot of us whereas now I’m completely removed from all of them. I couldn’t go and see them obviously. Very very different, very enlightening. I’m learning a lot about ‘self’ and how I am as a person.” - Kim

How has the pandemic affected your relationship with home?

“I think the pandemic has made me appreciate the space in both homes much more and how best to utilize it to help my mental health. Creating clear boundaries between my work from home space and sleeping space for example. Also it’s meant spending a lot more time with my loved ones ie having a family home cooked meal everyday which was lovely” - Gary

How has your relationship been affected by the pandemic and home?

“I think the pandemic has definitely speeded up and strengthened our relationship in ways that wouldn’t have been possible without it. In February, Gary and I had lunch and as I was extremely unhappy with my current housing situation at the time, I asked him if he felt he would be ready to move in with me in June so I could figure out what to do. He said no and I thought I’d just find another house share after returning from the states in April. Turns out the universe decided we should live together wether we thought we were ready or not. The truth is, most of our relationship has been in the pandemic so I can’t really answer how it has changed it. Time changes relationships and learning more about each other changes relationships so would our relationship have grown differently without the pandemic, who knows? It certainly made our relationship way more serious way faster, and helped us grow as a couple, learn how to love each other through the challenges. And now pandemic and home as a couple are kinda linked.” - Maj

What does home mean to you?

My home has definitely become my sanctuary even more so than ever before. I think the business and the intensity and scariness of the outside world and all the horrible things that are happening has meant that I’ve really cherished my home even more than normal. It’s become my safe space. I try not to watch the news or try not to let any negativity and bad things into my home. There is so much of that going on and it would be very easy to constantly have all this news and negativity stream in. I’m being very selective about what energy I allow into my home and it’s become a really precious, savoured space. In the past I used to be out quite a lot. As much as I really enjoyed being at home, I often felt like I didn’t do it enough because I was just always busy and out and about and doing things, but I often craved having more time at home but just didn’t allow myself that. Whereas now it’s such a huge priority and it’s become really important to me. Although home to me doesn’t have to be one place. I mentioned earlier that I’m having to move home, so I had a really nice place that I called home. I’ve been living there for maybe 6 months and I felt really comfortable and really nice there. It was a really lovely place and had a good sense of community and I really enjoyed it, but I’ve had to move. In fact, I’m moving out tomorrow so I am surrounded by carboard boxes at the moment and I feel sad to be leaving this place. I’m very fortunate that I’ve done a swap with some friends and I’m staying at their house which is walking distance to work which is amazing and right now it’s so helpful and it’s a really lovely place. Although I haven’t been there for very long, only a matter of weeks. In fact, I moved in just for a week, the week before lockdown and I’ve been there ever since. I also think of home as Cardiff where I grew up, my mum and dads house and so home has lots of meanings. For me, I don’t think it’s just one place or space and I think it is changeable. I guess there’s that saying ‘home is where the heart is’ and it’s made me think that that really is true. I definitely see Cardiff and Wales and the place where my family and friends are as home but also London is my home and then there’s the physical space. It has been strange, and I’ve sort of been back and forth between the two places over the last couple of moments. It will be odd saying goodbye to this place which I’ve attached memories and emotions to but on to a new chapter. It means I’ll be safer, and my life will be a lot easier now.” - Leanne

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