What is “Home”?

Abigail Pfortmueller

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When the word “home” is brought up, many think of where they live, possibly their parents house or where they grew up. Somewhere you feel comfortable and safe, there is a feeling of love through the halls that lifts you up. The idea of “home” is something that I have thought about since I was young. The house I grew up in never felt safe unless I was tucked away in my room, watching a Disney movie on my VHS or entertaining my sisters. My room became this safe haven for myself and my younger sisters because the rest of the house was a battle ground. There was yelling and fights most of the week until my parents divorced when I was 16. Navigating the halls to avoid it became an art, always being quiet and never wanting to be the reason that someone would be set off. The house I lived in was not my “home”.

When I considered what “home” was I thought about my dance studio, my grandparents house and our family cabin. They were places I felt safe, I could be myself and I was not scared. My house always felt like someone else’s space that I was living in, I had no control over what happened unless I was in my room, and at times it felt like a helpless place. As young as 14 I remember making art about “home”, writing monologues, drawing, making short videos and photography. This question has become a life force and driving point in my practice. Expressing these feelings through art is a therapeutic and meditative process that has helped me greatly in my healing from my childhood. My work continues to ponder what “home” is to me and I believe that theme will carry on in the future.

The selected works below all consider this theme of “home”, what it means to me and how it has affected me. When scrolling through, I invite you to think about your “home”, and possibly other spaces you have lived in that did not feel like a “home”.

Home Series, 2021

Home, (My Bedroom), 2021

For the images comprising my latest series, Home, I have used a large format camera, which amplifies the
objects and spaces themselves with startling clarity, providing the viewer with a myriad of details
to compel them to look closer. Home (My Bedroom), focuses on my difficult connection with my childhood home. Since my parent’s divorce, I have had a strenuous relationship with the spaces in which I grew up and
spent the majority of my life. The images depict rooms filled to the brim with memories,
cascading with charged objects. The spaces photographed are inhabited daily, yet look
completely abandoned. I captured my mother’s home as I found it on the day of the shoot,
unflinchingly, and offer the viewer a look into the lives of those who inhabit this spaces.

These images portray a family that has gone through many difficult times, evidenced by a
home in a state of ruin.

Echo, 2022

Echo, (Father’s House), 2022
Echo, (Mother’s House), 2022

Echo, focuses on my difficult connection with my Mother and Father’s separate homes. The images depict the family spaces of both my homes, they are similar yet different, and show a family that was once together, separated. The scene photographed is taken like a family portrait, only missing the rest of my family. The pose is strained to show my discomfort in both homes, which never really felt like my own.

The images are separated by each home, layered on-top of one another to amplify the ephemerality of the images. My presence connects the two spaces together while also showing the clear separation. This project plays with the idea of fragmentation and flaw in that the images are flawed, flowing and merging. The layering of the images amplifies the separation, failure, fracture and fragmentation of my family. I have always had a sense of incompleteness towards my relationship to my family, and I feel as though this project has given me a fabricated feeling of completeness.

These images portray absence, that you can be home and still feel completely alone.

Charged Objects, 2021

Charged Objects, 2021 is a series of images that hold great emotional value and are weighted. Each object is charged with memories and moments of my childhood. When looked at, you can imagine the child who once played with them or used them on a day to day basis. There is an ambiance and air to them that they are abandoned and the images are taken as “evidence”. All of these pieces form a sort of mosaic of my life, and come from some of the hardest moments of a lost childhood. 

This series acts as a time capsule, and a therapeutic process. Creating this work and looking back at these objects, there were many moments when flashbacks would come to mind. This project is ongoing, and ever-changing, every day new objects become charged and are added to the mosaic. Ten years from now we will be looking back at objects from this time in life and considering the importance that they carry.

Abigail Pfortmueller

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Abigail is an artist based out of the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) peoples, also known as Richmond, where she grew up and still resides. She has had a passion for photography since she was 11 years old, and through learning and help from mentors she was able to major in photography at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Abigail’s practice, since at Emily Carr Univerity of Art and Design, has focused on mental helath and family issues. The imagery she conjures can come in many formats and styles, from staged to documentary. Her work comes from a personal place, yet is also able to reach a broad audience, since the topics she explores are endured by many people. Her work begs you to look inwards, at your own experiences, or connect with those you are close to, who may be dealing with simmilar issues.

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