An Ordinary Eden – Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell’s latest solo exhibition, now on view at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, explores the importance of housing, home, and belonging.
Scottish photographer Margaret Mitchell’s exhibition An Ordinary Eden, currently on display at Street Level Photoworks, is an examination of the “importance of home and belonging”. Comprising a series of portraits of people who have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, this body of work reflects on the emotional and practical consequences of being without a home.
During the course of the project, which started in 2019, Margaret worked with organisations across Scotland including Shelter Scotland, a charity campaigning for tenant rights. Accompanying the exhibition is a book, Stories on Finding Home, which features contributions created by the people Margaret photographed.
The title of the exhibition is inspired by the neck tattoo of Michael, who Margaret has photographed in his temporary accommodation. The idea of ‘Eden’ — a paradise filled with beauty, pleasure and plenitude — is subverted in the world that Margaret presents to us.
Society views homelessness as rife with instability, uncertainty, and a lack of dignity. Oscillating between judgement, apathy, or avoidance, our instinctive response to homelessness often fails to consider the personal stories of homeless individuals.
That’s the narrative Margaret is hoping to change with An Ordinary Eden; here, she questions and reflects upon the kind of society we want to create — “A society that cares for others in a timely manner or one that ignores, disregards, doesn’t try hard enough”.
Whether these men and women are in a temporary accommodation or have found something permanent, the spaces haven’t become their home yet. The rooms are sparsely furnished; the photo frames are still to be adorned with pictures. At the moment, Margaret’s sitters seem to have been captured in a state of rest.
Not the kind one experiences after achieving one milestone, before embarking on the next, but a brief moment of respite in an otherwise unrelenting life. As the name suggests, ‘Eden’ isn’t a fantastical utopia; it’s fairly ordinary — a process of going back to a regular life, reclaiming a semblance of normality and dignity along the way.
An Ordinary Eden is on display at Street Level Photoworks until 16th July 2023.
By Shyama Laxman