Old Folks' Homes
March 25, 2008 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Bert Teunissen - Domestic Landscapes. Photographs of (mostly) senior citizens in their living rooms and kitchens.

Since 1996, Dutch photographer Bert Teunissen has been travelling around western Europe, and more recently Japan, making portraits of people living in houses built before electricity was commonplace. His travel diaries give more background, and more photos of the houses.

Article in the IHT from last April.
posted by ceiriog (17 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

I can't get over the authenticity of these spaces. I can almost smell my grandmother's house.

It's funny too, the furniture, tiles, and fixtures are what a lot of interior design catalogues are trying to capture here in the US.
posted by splatta at 7:36 AM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Everyone in Holland seems to have dinner plates hanging on the wall of their kitchen. I've seen that in the US, but it seems to be a universal there.
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 AM on March 25, 2008

Memo to self:
Tidy kitchen
posted by speug at 8:36 AM on March 25, 2008

Wonderful photos. Thanks.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:43 AM on March 25, 2008

I'm surprised by all the crucifixes in the German kitchens (yes, I've wandered into other countries now -- I'm a nosy person and love these kinds of photos). And by the laundry lines (on pulleys?) in Great Britain. And the beds in the Bulgarian kitchens. And all the wallpaper, everywhere.

I think the Bulgarian ones are my favorites.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:05 AM on March 25, 2008

I'm surprised by all the crucifixes in the German kitchens

I was surprised by the number of crucifixes displayed in public when I first visited Germany... e.g., in the town squares, and on the sides of the road at regular intervals. I guess I never thought of Germany as a strongly Catholic country (in comparison to the way I think about, say Italy.)
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2008

Wonderful and dark, touched by rays of light. What a tour and an incredible amount of work - all those countries, I'm impressed. Interesting how the IHT article's photo was lightened considerably — the original being too dark for them it seems.

As a side note, I lost my GP because he closed his office and started making house calls [a documentary of him - his work combined with photography] full time.
While making those house calls, he shot B&W photographs of his house bound patients.
"Many said no because they were ashamed," says the 45-year-old GP with a specialization in geriatrics. "Here they are living in grinding poverty, in bachelor apartments, in tattered clothes. I told them it was so important to show that this is the reality in the heart of Canada's richest city." —from The National Review of Medicine.

Stories from his patients and an eye opener of 'Canada's Health Care'.

pdf of many photos — a sad representation of the actual photos, shot using his Rolleiflex (6X6, 80mm lens) — platinum prints. The originals are beautiful B&W's.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:50 AM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I may be wrong, but it doesn't look like there's a single mall walker among them, either.
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:37 AM on March 25, 2008

Interesting decision to use natural light instead of some sort of flash. The result is that all of the interiors look kind of dark and creepy. Not much chrome, gleaming tile, or Corian anywhere.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:55 AM on March 25, 2008

Dave Faris-- you nailed it.
Is "kitchen as laboratory" (or morgue...) a uniquely Amurrican concept, I wonder?
posted by Dizzy at 10:57 AM on March 25, 2008

I love the kitchens. Such a wonderful mixture of utilitarianism and garishness, but so inviting and cozy at the same time.
posted by amyms at 11:12 AM on March 25, 2008

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

Plus, this man is my hero.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:11 PM on March 25, 2008

Superb post, what I think of as a MetaFilter treasure. Something I wouldn't have discovered otherwise and find my life the better for taking the time to look and savor. Needed a tender joy fix. Thank you ceiriog.

The photographer, Bert Teunissen, is delightfully humble, appreciative and likable in his approach. His love of humanity, astutely observing the variations and yet similarities in domestic landscapes around the world shine through his images without cynicism.

Visiting people in any country, or any place for that matter, usually means sitting where a person hangs out most. Prior to the computer the intense communication spot at home was around the kitchen table, having tea, coffee or a meal. From that vantage place one can glimpse so much about a culture, their sense of comfort, feeling of home, family, traditional decoration, sense of hospitality, the public persona mingled with their private preferences.

There are some charming things in those kitchens that one doesn't see in modern kitchens, like the hand made ruffled or embroidered trim around the mantels or shelf edges. I'm of Dutch, Celtic and British extraction, but I look Dutch the most and felt deeply at home in Amsterdam. So it was especially touching to see the wonderful kitchens there in the Netherlands, the old tiles, the Vermeer aspect of the light.

But all his portraits in various countries are exquisite. Breathtakingly lovely in their simplicity. The austerity of the black clad old lady in the Mediterranean ones remind me how grateful I am for women's lib.

The Italians always seem to have a wonderful sense of personal space.

Clutter I can relate to.

Living in a miniature apartment in NYC, in a tenement built 140 years ago, I can relate to having a bed near the kitchen/dining area, Bulgarian style. Boy, you wouldn't want to do any flailing around in bed that near the stove.

The Japanese ones are so interesting. Classic.

They don't make faces clothed so poignantly like that any more.

Thanks for the quiet bliss.
posted by nickyskye at 1:11 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

These are really wonderful. I especially like how earthy the Spanish photographs are. Plastered walls, big wooden beams, open hearths and that slanting light. So different from the Netherlands, which I looked at first.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:56 PM on March 25, 2008

My poor late grandmother. How little I think of her anymore.

Interiors like madelaines.
posted by jouke at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2008

In some ways, some of these photos remind me of Jacob Riis photographs of the squalor in early 20th century New York tenements.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:46 PM on March 25, 2008

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