LONDONERS AT HOME:
The Way We Live Now
Part Three of the London Trilogy
BY MILAN SVANDERLIK
Text Editor: Gerald Stuart Burnett
The longest day of the year (20th June in 2020) is the Summer Solstice, traditionaly celebrated by Druids and by the votaries of Mother Nature everywhere. The principal UK celebration is a usually well-attended gathering at Stonehenge, but this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this impracticable. Despite such a major impediment, many individuals will still observe the sunrise and celebrate the dawn of Midsummer Day at home. In March 2018, I had the good fortune to visit, photograph and interview Terry Dobney, the Keeper of the Stones at the Avebury Stone Circle, in Wiltshire. Before he was tragically struck down by a serious stroke, Terry used to lead the Summer Solstice ceremonies every year at Avebury. He firmly believed that although we all venerate the sun as the fount of life, understanding the influence of the moon on the Earth may well be more important.
Do read and share Terry's fascinating story: it is especially relevant in this Midsummer season.
“Lingering he raised his latch at eve,
Though tired in heart and limb:
He loved no other place, and yet
Home was no home to him.”
S T Coleridge, 1772-1834
“It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home.”
Charles Dickens, 1812-1870
“The best / Thing we can do is to make wherever we’re lost / Look as much like home as we can.”
Christopher Fry, 1907-2005
“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;”
J H Payne, 1791-1852
BOOKS / E-BOOKS
Following his two most recent exhibitions, (2012) and (2015) both of which highlighted the great diversity amongst Londoners, Milan has recently completed his third major project on life in the capital. While Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now, which forms the final part of his ‘London Trilogy’, can certainly be seen as furthering his interest in exploring the extraordinary diversity of the capital’s inhabitants and the lives they lead, in his latest project, 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.” Three months into the project, Milan discovered a sequence of photographs bearing almost the same name that he had selected himself: this was London at home, by Magda Segal. This talented artist had photographed Londoners during the period 1991-1993 and her book of the same name, with a foreword by Alan Bennett, was published in 1993, during which year an exhibition of her photographs was mounted at the Museum of London. Sad to say, a quarter of a century later, the same museum appeared determined to take no interest whatsoever in what might well have proved to be an interesting revisiting of similar territory, with good opportunities to reflect upon how Londoners' home lives have changed over the intervening period.
“I must admit,” Milan continues, “that having discovered this work, I was somewhat downhearted and, initially, I was rather inclined to abandon my own project altogether. However, on reflection, I decided to carry on; while the subject matter is broadly similar, I think I have a very different and equally original perspective on the way I perceive London and Londoners. Also, unlike Magda Segal’s work, where powerful images are left to speak for themselves, mine are accompanied by a substantial and unashamedly socio-political commentary. And even if viewers are tempted to draw comparisons, my latest project does, intriguingly, succeed in demonstrating just how much Londoners’ lives have changed over a quarter of a century, even if this is something in which the Museum of London doesn't seem much interested.”
Like its predecessors, Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now is a wholly non-commercial project. For a fuller description, please click on the following link: . As the outcome of two years’ dedicated, hard work, 64 subjects have been covered extensively and this final figure is very much a product of the extent to which volunteers could be encouraged to come forward in connection with a range of important topics. Any obvious omissions, and there are several, regrettably represent those occasions upon which considerable endeavour to secure suitable sitters proved fruitless.
Both preceding projects have been published in book form, with copies lodged, for posterity, in the British Library and the UK’s other ‘copyright libraries’. As it has not proved possible to secure a commercial publisher for Londoners at Home: The Way We Live Now, it has been agreed that the concluding component of Milan’s ‘London Trilogy’ should be published by the artist himself. All three books in the 'London Trilogy' have also now been published in digital form, as e-books; these are available world-wide.
London at home
by Magda Segal, with foreword by Alan Bennett
Cornerhouse Publications, Manchester (1993)
Londoners at Home, The Way We Live Now
If you are interested in buying a hardback book or e-book -
In seeing the work on his ‘London Trilogy’ draw to a close, Milan was keen to acknowledge the vital contributions of others: “Once more, it has been a great privilege to be invited into the homes and lives of so many extraordinary people, people who allowed me to tell something of their life stories and to weave these into what has become a much larger picture. I thank everyone who has taken part as well as all those who have provided invaluable help and support. While I am the creator of this project, my partner, Gerald Burnett, has contributed a great deal to it too, as have you all, so I see it very much as our project! It has been created by Londoners and it is a celebration of this extraordinary city of ours, with all its highlights as well as some of its dark shadows.