A number of weeks ago, I was invited to be photographed in my workspace for a project. Now, my workspace is not very exciting, it is the room in which I sleep with a desk in the corner. There are a few images around the place mostly from art exhibitions I have been to over the years, it is very tidy and everything is in the right place, but for the most part it is not what most people would consider very inspiring. Yet this is where the majority of my work has been composed since 2006. (Not in this exact room, I have moved many times but in rooms like it – a bed in the corner a desk in the other corner and images on the wall). The whole project made me think about what it is about workspaces that fascinates us. I think of Francis Bacon’s studio in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and how chaotic it is, and I think of the many composer’s workspaces I have visited over the years and how often their space is a reflection of their art and what great work was created in these rooms. But why do we find this interesting? More to the point, what it is about the lives of others that interest us?
I mention these things because I was recently taken aback by Behind the Door a photo essay by Giulia Berto in which she has documented the inhabitants of 83 Meserole Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. I was attracted to this photo essay because I think the images are incredibly well composed and very beautifully shot, but I think the most striking thing is that she has managed to capture a sense of ease about the subjects.
In today’s society, it seems as if many people have two personas (particularly in the art world), the public and the private. Often the public persona is a little more guarded, a little less edgy and a little safer. However, what I like about Giulia’s photos is there is a sense that all of the subjects are comfortable. They don’t seem to be putting on their public faces.
Maybe this is why we have a fascination with people behind closed doors. It is here, either in their workspaces or dwellings that they are most at ease, where there is no pretence.
Morton Feldman talks in his interview with Walter Zimmermann published in Desert Plants about artists having to be comfortable with loneliness and having to deal with this sense of loneliness for six or seven hours a day to create. I think this is what Giulia has captured in these photographs: A sense of ease with loneliness facilitated by being behind the door.