I was almost 9 years old when I entered our new home together with my parents, my sister and two brothers. For one year the shop had been moved to the back of the premises, where an old wooden barrack gave it temporarily a home, and the family had been living in a small modern house in one of the new districts of … Read More
I was almost 9 years old when I entered our new home together with my parents, my sister and two brothers. For one year the shop had been moved to the back of the premises, where an old wooden barrack gave it temporarily a home, and the family had been living in a small modern house in one of the new districts of the town, while the old place in the centre was demolished and replaced by a modern, state-of-the-art building with the shop on the ground floor and the dwelling place on the first. In the new house we would all be given separate sleeping rooms, and from the living room and from the kitchen we would look down on the street.
I expectantly entered the new situation. During the first steps I was confusingly fooled because the entrance was the same as the old one and the same old toilet was still on the right-hand side with the old dining room still opposite. Even the stairs were in place. When climbing to the first floor, everything slowly became different and when I reached the top of the stairs and sort of expected to continue my way into my old and trusted past, I suddenly met with a completely new and unknown world. Everything was different from before: the light, the colours, the sound, the smell; nothing was familiar and that was very confusing. I felt betrayed. Everything I knew, everything I ever had, everything that represented my existence was gone forever. It was taken without me having been able to say goodbye. At that very moment the blueprint of my youth, of my previous existence, must have engraved itself inalienably in my memory.
About thirty years later, as a photographer, this experience made me focus on this specific aspect: the atmosphere of existence. During the fifteen years that I have been working on my project ‘Domestic Landscapes’, I have made an archive of houses in Europe in which that specific atmosphere could be found. I went looking for houses that still have daylight as the main source of lighting; interiors in architectural situations that come from the pre-electric era, in which daylight dictated the decoration and use of each room. In every house I tried to find and capture the light and atmosphere from my elderly home.
Without bothering myself about specific architectural aspects, I concentrated on the daily use of the house, the way the inhabitants made it their home. I photographed in such a way that for the spectator it would be inevitably clear what kind of household he is looking at. Every picture was taken with just the available daylight., and I specifically focussed on the way that light affects each situation. The resemblance with the works of Pieter de Hoogh, Josef Israëls, Johannes Vermeer and also Rembrandt becomes quite clear: the clair-obscur that made their paintings so intimate and well-known, seems to have been around for centuries and only started to disappear after the introduction of electricity, the invention that changed architecture for good. The fact that a large part of the situations in my archive have vanished already, shows the historic value of the work. Read Less