‘Stranger Come Home’ is about longing for steady love, how the unlived life haunts the everyday, and how a home remembers a relationship.
In the aftermath of a breakup, I sold all of my furniture, shoved my books in storage, and left the city. I ran for months on end, and I visited my parents and old friends. Staring at their front doors, living room walls, and kitchen counters, I saw signs of the settled comfort that I so desperately missed.
Homes have a way of holding on. If you live in a place long enough, your belongings say something about your hopes and your past. If you live with a partner, the shared space sings of the habits, routines, and rhythms of your relationship. When it’s over, the house remembers your old dreams. With every cup in the cupboard, every book on the shelf, it reminds you of what was and what could have been.
‘Stranger Come Home’ imagines a place where losses are recovered and everything belongs. Household still lives, backyard landscapes, and tender portraits suggest a shared lifetime of sunny afternoons. Pictures of done dishes, soft sheets, and leafy neighborhoods hover between reality and remembrance. Daydream light washes over everything, but the perfect peace can’t last. Dreams are beautiful because they are brief.
Any fantasy comes with an awareness of its inevitable, painful absence. Regrets, nostalgia, and unfulfilled desires shadow this romantic vision of home. To quote from Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, “to crave and to have are as a thing and its shadow.” Things fall apart, moments only remain still in memory, and no one really knows how to make love stay. The pictures search the faces of family, bedside tabletops, and distant houses for signs of a world made whole again.
The project traces a deeply personal narrative, but by beholding everyday domestic details with tenderness, ‘Stranger Come Home’ invokes a universal longing for a place of your own, a life filled with love, and the fear you’ll never find it.
This essay was Shortlisted for the EPF 2016
Ward Long is a photographer based in Oakland, California.
Working in his home state and the American South, his pictures describe loss, people, and landscape with literary precision and cinematic sequencing. His photographs treat light as revelation, and blend a documentary approach with personal storytelling. Making books by hand, his work twists text, image, and craft into strands of poetic narrative.
He holds a degree in political science from Davidson College, and graduated from the Photography MFA program at the University of Hartford in 2015. Studying with Alec Soth, Mark Steinmetz, and Doug Dubois, he received both the President’s Award and the Perfect Dummy award.
He has been profiled in American Photo, and his writings and interviews have been featured on Lay Flat.
In the last eighteen months he’s lived in Durham, Jacksonville, Brooklyn, Asheville, Berkeley, Berlin, and Hamden, and he’s really hoping things will settle down soon.