The Unheimliche (Homely)

I am using the term unheimliche, which Freud suggests is a place or object that is unhomely, but was once familiar and now uncomfortably strange. This is the culmination of my investigations into how photographs aid the recollection of memory and was initially an extension of the trophy photograph inquiry, exploring how we view the familiar or homely (heimliche). As one of my interviewees stated, when challenged about his memories relating to a photograph taken of him in 1980, “I don’t remember the photograph being taken at all...” he also stated that he remembered the location depicted and the actual photograph, commenting that “it had always been around”, but he had no recollection of the event or the reason it was taken. As Eakins suggests “how much of what autobiographers say they experience is equivalent to what they really experience, and how much of it is merely what they really experience, and how much of it is merely what they know how to say?”

The main focus of this part of the investigation was to choose two locations – the heimliche and unheimliche. The first, the heimliche (homely or familiar) are photographs of locations near my parents’ home, where I lived as a child and a second location, the unheimliche (unhomely or unfamiliar) is in northern France near to where my parents now live. The fact that my parents now live at this location is coincidental and for the purposes of this research this does not encroach on the context of the investigation.

Working within the parameters of the familiar, in this case the area around my childhood home, photographs were shot of locations that I regularly visited as a child and throughout my adolescence. The focus in the investigation was to look at places where I spent my leisure time, mainly in parks and woodlands. This was relative to the subject matter in the original set of photographs from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Drawing parallels between my work and that of the naturalistic paintings by George Shaw (1966 -) photographing and writing about the Coventry council estate where he grew up in the late 1960s and 1970s, it is what it is, a slice of reality of suburban Britain from the mid twentieth century. Godfrey Worsdale commented that Shaw’s approach is “deeply personal and universally shared; he has continuously demonstrated that there is something collective about all of our individual experiences.” The images discussed within this research relate to the late 1970s and early 1980s. The architecture and fashion within the frame is not familiar eighteenth and nineteenth romanticism, nor are they beautiful vistas in the English Countryside akin to the romanticised oil paintings by John Constable (1776 – 1835) or Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) that hang in homes throughout the UK. This work is an investigation into personal photographs that exist and memories of those depicted past events. It is similar in tone to the work of Clare Gallagher’s Domestic Drift Project (2012) described by Leonita Flynn as, “representative of the unremarkable domestic experience.”

Using Format