For the second instalment of ‘At Home’—an ongoing photo series exploring living spaces of all shapes and sizes from all over the world—photographer Rita Liao captures two family homes in southern China.
An hour’s drive south of the city Guangzhou rests the distinctly rural village of Tangxia, home to both Li Ri-He (李日和) and Li Chi-Chang (李熾昌). Known affectionately by the photographer as “Uncle” and “Great Uncle”, these men and their families have lived in this region their entire lives; their houses today are only streets apart.
On her recent, and first, visit to this water-facing village, Rita was struck by the way life effortlessly spills from the inside out: “doors are left open, and the close-knit arrangement of dwellings allows for chance encounters. Boundaries are blurred: children wander in and out, and while dwellings have their own private spaces, the shared space is the space where life happens.”
In contrast with the new downtown area just a stone’s throw away, the village represents an older, slower way of life. The homes are simple, utilitarian spaces that encourage a humble way of life. They’re examples of vernacular architecture, governed by local climatic needs; courtyards and gabled roofs provide shade, and open windows offer natural ventilation. “It is a lifestyle based on a closer relationship with the land on which these people live,” says Rita.
In their simplicity and honesty, they tell stories of the past and of today in the objects and spaces they hold. Small nooks are found for burning incense and paper plasters doorways and walls to bring luck and prosperity. The patchy door at Chi-Chang’s (熾昌) house speaks of the Japanese occupation when troops took to the door with a hatchet and the kitchens are jumbles of old and new. One kitchen allows for cooking over an open flame while the other has a food safe used since before the advent of the refrigerator. A large round table is the centrepiece of the communal space—for years playing host to grandparents, parents, children and cousins, who gather together to eat from a hotpot.
In these homes culture is not just celebrated but lived in, everyday. It plays a practical role in spaces where the line between what’s private and public is blurred, and the community thrives by keeping many things as they are.
Lindsay’s ongoing photo series ‘At Home’ documents local living spaces of all shapes and sizes from around the world. Behind these closed doors, we discover more intimate and subtle versions of the place itself: spaces where culture is mirrored in daily life, history exists in the walls and stories are made by those who live there.