‘Firstly, I try to stress the importance of home and the family: I feel they are terribly important. And secondly, I try to stress the fact that the theory of gravity is a lot of nonsense.’ – Ivor Cutler, 1959
Guy Bolongaro (born Crewe, 1978) studied sociology before moving to London to become a social worker. Around 2014, burnt out by work and frustrated by his attempts at making documentary films in his spare time, he began taking photographs as a form of ‘daily art therapy,’ making images on his lunch breaks and walks home from work. A few years after the birth of his first child he shifted focus from the public sphere to the family cosmos, turning attention from his walking routes to his domestic routines.
Capturing the strange and vibrant moments within the daily maelstrom of childcare and child’s play, and in documenting the cyclical patterns of family life, Bolongaro began a process of working through his feelings of ambivalence about how we live within the idealised ‘family unit’, attempting to persuade himself that family – or at any rate, his own – can work.
In the song from which ‘Gravity Begins At Home’ takes its title, the Scottish musician Ivor Cutler assures us that the theory of gravity is ‘a lot of nonsense’, and Bolongaro’s photographs appear to support this notion – that when it comes to family, everything is up in the air: here objects (eggs, daffodils, lit candles) levitate, and children fly as though possessed. Here too are celestial bodies, mirrorings and doublings, games of scale, and collage-like overlappings and abuttings, alongside quieter, homespun scenes of domestic life (hair is brushed, telly watched, laundry folded).
Cutler suggests that the family is something ‘terribly important’. Even if we accept this, then the importance of family is surely far from uncomplicated. So, while there are moments when the way we live together seems to defy the rules of gravity, we should continue to question the confines and strictures of the nuclear family model.
Composed of four expandable books held within a slipcase (finished with stickers applied by Bolongaro and his children) ‘Gravity Begins At Home’ gives us a dynamic, unsentimental view of family life: ambiguous, chaotic, unsettling and joyous in equal measure.