Amy Lombard – Happy Inside (Ikea)

Photographs ©Amy Lombard

As a photographer I am not necessarily interested in staging reality so to speak — instead, what I am interested in is someone else’s idea of a staged reality. This very thought brought me to the highly constructed rooms that are meant to replicate the consumers “ideal home” in IKEA. Everything within the space is meticulously planned, and items are intentionally placed to create a certain effect. This simulation of the home not only sells the product, but more importantly, lends itself to the idea of selling a possible life. The rooms in IKEA are built for the sole purpose of interaction; what I am interested in photographically are these interactions.

As part of one of their most recent campaigns, IKEA conducted an experiment titled Herding Cats where they released one hundred cats loose overnight in their Wembley location. Cats live their lives in the pursuit of comfort, so this experiment was to see how exactly the cats reacted once they were released in the constructed environments. What
did the cats do? They climbed on sofas, pranced throughout the rooms, slept on beds — treating the space as if it were indeed their own home.

In this day and age, similar to these cats, we too actively live our lives in the pursuit of comfort in any given situation. This possible life that I had mentioned — it’s sleek, it’s desirable, it is an aesthetic all on its own — needless to say, we are drawn to it. This shell of a room has the power of giving you a very real sense of privacy in a very public setting. So, we act just as these cats do: We treat the space as if it were our own.

Full statement here

A couple of months ago I was in Macy’s buying clothes. I was trying my best to make it as quick a trip as possible because I don’t like being in department stores. I get anxious and want to leave. I’m not a good shopper. I haven’t been to the Ikea in New York but I vividly remember visiting the one in Burbank while I lived in Los Angeles. It’s a bizarre experience. The buying options are mind-boggling and the whole place has an unsettling vibe.

What I enjoy about Amy’s photographs is that she captures that vibe but with a twist. Without her statement we most likely wouldn’t be able to tell the photographs were made in Ikea. It’s a good example of how a statement changes the context of the photographs. Do we need to know they take place in Ikea? That’s a good question. I think we’d still get the feeling that something wasn’t quite right with scenes. But how? What gives it away?

As I’ve written in the past the relationship between words and photographs is complicated. It’s one of those topics that nearly every photographer will have an opinion about, and more often than not, a very strong opinion. That’s partly what makes the dynamic so interesting.