Where do you draw the line?
Jayne Lloyd tells us about her ongoing series Home/Work, documenting the fine line that divides work from play, and business from pleasure - photographing the varied and eclectic workspaces of people who work at home.
I was looking for a new project – I’d been freelancing for a couple of years and putting so much energy into looking for and working on commissions that although I’d done little things along the way, I didn’t have a really big project to get my teeth into, and it was something I felt I needed, creatively. I remembered something that had stuck with me at a portfolio review – “make use of the access you have” and started thinking about all the people I meet and the stories I could explore.
When I first went freelance, I found it difficult not having people to talk to who were going through the same thing – my friends were all employed and most working in very different industries. I saw an article in a local paper about a networking group, so I went along. Once you go to one networking group you realise there is a whole world of events going on all the time, so I’ve been to a few. Networking events and groups get a bad rap, but mostly they are filled with other people who are also running their own business, getting and giving support and making connections with possible clients.
Thinking about the people I met at some of the events, I was most drawn to the idea of documenting people who live and work in the same place. When I’m not on location I work from home and I’m always interested in how other people approach working from their own homes. Are there defined divisions between home and work spaces? Are the lines blurred? 'Home' is a recurring theme in my work - I am fascinated by our interactions with objects and spaces - and with the number of home workers on the increase I thought this would be interesting to investigate.
When I was at networking events, I mentioned my project to the groups and asked for volunteers as a starting point, which led to the 15 participants I have so far.
Typically, I arrive at the person’s home and they show me where they work – we have a chat about the work that they do, their favourite things in the space and they leave me to it. Everyone has been really welcoming and generous - totally happy for me to photograph as I please. Starting the project without a clear idea of what I’d find or how I’d present it, I took quite a methodical approach – starting with wide shots to show the whole space, but also focussing in on the details. I took a portrait of each person, but the main focus was on the workspaces themselves. I got quite stuck on the idea of showing the physical threshold where both meet, but sometimes there isn’t one, and that’s a challenge in itself.
It’s really interesting to see how differently people work, and I think as humans we’re inclined to wonder what other humans do and how we compare. I asked each person a set of questions after the shoot to understand more about why they chose to work from home, their favourite things about it and any difficulties they faced.
Julie is a Bra Consultant who at the time was using a room in her house as a consulting room. She often works with women who are having bra fittings after mastectomies or surgery and although the home environment was welcoming, she needed her clients to feel completely secure in the knowledge that no-one would enter the room while they were there and had processes to ensure that was the case. Sam, a marketing consultant, doesn’t have a door on her office, so her sons feel free to wander in and be with her as she works if they want. Liz, a travel agent, likes the degree of flexibility it gives her in her work and family life, but finds it difficult knowing when to stop.
So far, most of the people I have photographed are people that I know in some way, and I’m very aware that I need a much more diverse range of participants – I started the project hoping to show the huge variety of work and industries being run from homes, but I slowed down a bit when I started to get contacted by repeats of people doing similar work, or people who I felt misunderstood it as an opportunity for free photography. My next stage is to reach more people to get a truer representation of the vast range of people and businesses working in this way.