WHERE THE HEART IS - Personal series

  • Francis Augusto
  • Zelie Lockhart
  • Gerald Onyango

For the full series - https://www.francisaugusto.co.uk/wthiseries ‘Where the Heart Is’ continues my exploration of our relationship with the concept of ‘home’. The pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have taken a toll on us and have impacted our intimate relationships. This series looks to encourage self-reflection for ourselves and how we feel about our homes, as it has become more than merely a place we rest in. The series consists of 18 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.

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 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?” -Sophie
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 got more 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
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?” - Chemilla
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 you feel 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