Having a home is about more than just a roof over your head. Photographer Margaret Mitchell’s project An Ordinary Eden focuses on individuals who have experience of homelessness, exploring how their lives are impacted and disrupted by not having a safe, secure place to call their own. She talks us through some of the images, which explore the links between housing, a sense of belonging and being able to overcome challenges in life.
She says: “A lot of my work concerns themes such as home, place and belonging. Why the places people live are important to them, why belonging and having roots (or new roots) is fundamental to happiness.
“I started An Ordinary Eden in 2019 leading on from other work on inequalities. I wanted to look at what happened when people don’t always lead the life they thought – or hoped – would happen. What is the importance of ‘home’, how does a period of homelessness impact a person? What are the practical implications and emotional effects and how does society treat those in need?
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“I wanted to work with people who were currently in that situation but also those who could reflect on it from a distance and how it had affected them in the past. The title was inspired by a tattoo on Michael’s neck – EDEN – which he had changed from a message of hate, to one of possibility, of hope perhaps. It seemed to me that what people were looking for was not a perfect fantasy future but a simple wish for a regular life: safety, stability, a place to belong. Happiness in their own Ordinary Eden.
Summer visiting her mum
This image [main picture, above] aims to reflect love, protection but also hope. When I first met Lyndsey in 2019, she was in a hostel on her own in an isolated location with all the emotional difficulty that caused her. She told me that missing her daughter was an actual physical pain. Over time, she managed to get a permanent house and this image is taken there. Hers is a journey from a place that caused hurt to one where she could re-establish her life with her daughter. This image is part of that story. Her daughter had given her a cuddly toy to hug for when she wasn’t there and as we did this portrait, Lyndsey reached for it.I met several people with children. It seemed the support for woman who had complex needs, for example with drugs or alcohol, is not adequate, it does not help them manage to keep their children with them.