Homes I Have Not Been To

is a collective photographic project that focuses on personal understanding of home. Project started in South Africa and continued in Slovenia. The role of photographers was given to inhabitants of local communities who took pictures of their homes.

The project focused on the idea of home. It derived from my previous engagement with the topic – as an architect I have not only designed homes, but also written about them. In the last years I wrote many articles for different magazines on houses designed by various architects. I visited these houses, on one hand trying to decode the architectural concept of space and on the other trying to understand how people inhabit it. This inevitably led me to the question of home. How does a space someone inhabits become home? Is it only a physical space, a shelter from the outside and public life, that makes home for us? Or – is home something more intangible, not necessarily enclosed by walls and a roof?

In the project Homes I Have Not Been To I released myself from the role of observer and storyteller. In South African Republic, far away from what I think of as my home, I gave disposable cameras to people and ask them to tell their own stories of homes through the cameras. In Autumn 2010 I spent two months in one of southern shanty towns of Johannesburg while taking part in a social project. We were building a classroom and library in Ithuba Skills College together with students of the Ljubljana Faculty of Architecture and local workers. Workers lived in Magagula Heights Township, typical South African settlement for black people. Many of them have moved there from rural areas or other African states. Because I was interested how they live and what they think of their homes, I offered them cameras to take pictures on their own and without my presence.

17 workers and other inhabitants of Magagula Heights Township took part in the project. They received a short text with my reflections on the topic of home and disposable cameras for a week. They took more than 400 photographs. I developed and scanned them upon my return to Slovenia. In Slovenia, I did the same as participants from Magagula – took pictures of my home without their presence. Selection of photographs we took was presented in a book, published in limited edition in November 2010. I sent copies back to South Africa. Each participant received a copy.

Project continued in spring 2011 in Ljubljana in Rakova jelsa, originally an informal settlement. In many ways it is similar to Magagula Heights Township in Johannesburg: inhabitants have moved there mostly from ex-Yugoslavian republics – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia. A settlement is pushed to the spatial and mental edge of the city. By initiative of curator Adela Zeleznik from Museum for Contemporary Art Metelkova/Museum for Modern Art Ljubljana and teachers Andreja Miketic and Natalija Veselic Martinjak from Primary School Livada I invited pupils from this school to take part in the project. I worked with them a year before on the topic of ideal home as a part of the exhibition Home - Architects Marta and France Ivanšek, Slovenian Post-War architects. Upon presentation of the project from South Africa I asked pupils to photograph their homes with disposable cameras. 13 of them decided to participate.

I returned to Magagula Heights in Autumn 2011, again with students of the Ljubljana Faculty of Architecture. This time we built a multipurpose hall in Ithuba Primary School. We became friends with a group from architectural school in Aachen. Some also participated in the project.

There are more than 600 photographs from Johannesburg, Ljubljana and Aachen in the project archive today. Their selection was presented in the exhibition in Ljubljana in February 2012. Although photographs are snapshots of non-photographers, they reveal entirely individual and personal understandings of home, offering a variety of answers to the questions addressed at the start of the project.

Anja Planiscek