One of the most fascinating pieces of photojournalism I have seen to date is a series of panoramic photos by Jonas Bendikson (I highly recommend you take a look at Planet Slum by Jonas Bendikson and Christina Larson). It delves into homes in the slums and the environment in which they grew.
What comes to mind when you hear the word 'slums'? Not much of it spells out anything positive: poverty, 'inhumane' living spaces, clustered survival. Shacks and more recycled scrap material shacks.
Wow. Every single photo that I saw caused a paradigm shift in my mind. Slums, in several contexts, were grasped in a way that shows the mutual survival instinct and how architecture was resolved for those circumstances. As the article accompanying the photographs narrated, the inhabitants of slums made homes our of scavenged resource.
It's a wonder how many of the panoramas actually seem more homey than the average 'modern home' environment. The family might not be able to stand up straight in the rather squat abode, but the limited space is used with a concentration that endures family spirit.
The modern home has too much space. Too many blank walls force us to tack up a bland and cliche toi toi canvas. Not only is it not out of necessity, but it dampens the sense of togetherness while relatively cramped domestic spaces encourage connection.
Lessons learned from photojournalism are some that I most cherish. Hardly ever do we get to spend six weeks in the welcoming arms of a slum community but through the eyes of the lens we get a small slither of the experience. If we can use that fragment and apply it to our own lives and practices, well that is something to be grateful for.