The concept of the "Heimat" - the Home(land) - can be found in all languages, though not every language has a single, familiar term for it. "Heimat" unites different layers of meaning.
At the geographic level, the home represents a specific place, a region defined by its familiarity. Exploring no longer presents a challenge, but instead evokes a feeling of comfort.
At the social level, it is analogous to community and belonging: the bosom of the family or the circle of friends, along with traditions and customs.
At the sentimental level, the subjective memory draws a clear picture of the home based on recollections and personal experience.
This multi-layered nature of "Heimat" results in a complex construct that is easier to grasp emotionally than to explain intellectually.
Any attempt to explain „Heimat" on the visual plane invariably leads to the German Romantic Era and the paradigms found therein. It is interwoven with the romantic landscape, grandiose views of nature, captivating the gaze through their beauty and grandeur.
"Beauty is ideologically suspect. Just like the notion of 'Heimat'."
(Ariel Hauptmeier in < Peter Bialobrzeski „Heimat" >, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2005)
The word „Heimat" thus becomes the subject of polemics between the individual appropriation of the term in the private realm, and the misuse on the public and political stage. The duality of the term is remarkable: a longing for idyll and ideal stands alongside intolerance and a fear of loss.
Peter Bialobrzeski confronts this volatile topic head on. Can the question of beauty - a purely subjective form of appreciation - even be asked in contemporary photography? Is it possible to have a factual discourse based on emotional concepts, or do emotions stand in irreconcilable contradiction to the documentary character of an image? Can "Beauty" be represented independently of nostalgic sensibility?
„Heimat means having roots, not necessarily being rooted", says Bialobrzeski. His collection "Heimat" seeks to substantiate this. In his work "Die Zweite Heimat" (The Second Home), he takes the question to a new level and expands the meaning of Heimat by opening it outwards: one person's home can be someone else's second home.
Text: A. Meyer
English translation by Nadia Linden