Describing the view from your window and how it makes you feel is probably an exercise best left to the protagonists of bildungsroman. Or, to take a cue from a new online art project by window-covering manufacturer Somfy Systems, the photographers. After all, they do spend a lot of time thinking about framing and composition.
Somfy had 41 photographers from 27 countries contribute daytime and evening compositions of the view from their windows to The View from Here. “We wanted to create something that would inspire curiosity about the way other people live all over the world,” says Somfy marketing director Tracy Christmann. “ Looking at highly-stylized travel photos is fun, but it often doesn't tell you the true story of what it's really like on an everyday level.”
At the very least, it’s refreshing to see places like Abu Dhabi as someone who actually lives there does, instead of through the lens of a drone. Window casements in the foreground tightly frame each shot, while accompanying accounts of what can be seen and heard through these windows, and the impressions they leave on their habitual viewers, provides a different sort of domestic frame.
Reading these is a lot like hearing people describe their dreams; pretty tedious, but occasionally interesting enough to make the enterprise worth it. For Dana of Prague, the sun rising over apartment buildings outside her window is “like a toy Jedi sword cutting up cardboard doll houses.” In Karachi, Pakistan, Hira measures her days by the sound of a guard calling some 25 stray cats to breakfast and dinner.
Occasionally there’s a reminder to check your assumptions at the door. For Christian, a grim-looking apartment block in Bucharest represents “my childhood, home & love.” As one might expect, staring out a bedroom window is often rendered as inwardly focused and contemplative. But this isn’t always a positive thing. For Gintare of Utena, Lithuania, sitting at the window is a reminder that “the biggest killer in this world is loneliness.”
One common refrain—not quite as common as “the sunsets are unbelievable,” but still echoed pretty often—is ruing neighborhood development. A few photographers are moving soon, due to rising rent and maintenance costs, while others have their views marred by rising apartment buildings and telecom towers. Describing the impending demolition of a nearby housing project, Vicke from London strikes a tone that many city dwellers will undoubtedly find familiar: “While I understand and can empathize with the housing crisis we have, there’s a selfish part of me that’s looking forward to not having to look out onto this rather ugly building and instead be able to see more of the beautiful park that's directly to the right of it.”
Ironically enough, Somfy’s attempt to capture minute, personal experiences could hardly be more in-line with what travel and hospitality companies aim for today. It’s a wonder Airbnb didn’t think of this first.