2 people living in boat

London. A city of over 8 million people. A vast, sprawling metropolis. A dense urban environment and centre of business, culture and history.

How do you even begin to visually describe this city?

Where do you start?

Jonathan Donovan In “No Place Like Home” explores and exposes  London’s diversity through its people, their homes and lifestyles.

He reveals the private spaces behind the closed doors of stately villas, social housing, squatter homes, narrowboats, flats, vans, shacks and modern extensions.

He shows us home of the rich and poor; classical architecture and suburban semi; rental homes and homeownership.

Donovan shows us life in London as a time and a place.

This is a slice through the heart of a huge city. A city with a vast housing stock that has been built and re-built over many centuries. It is a city where people live, and have to live, in odd places – or wherever they can.

More than just photographs Donovan combines each image with a short audio. Through patches of dialogue we hear the resident’s voice and their story. He gives that voice back to the people, because this work is about them – not him.

Each image is beautifully shot to capture the quality and patina of each homespace.

From a home cluttered with personal possessions to one that has only the bare basics of homelife. 

People living up high, in the sky, and down undergound.

Donovan contrasts the rich, ornate and multi-layered with the smooth, gleaming neutrality of modernism.

Home; as a small apartment shared with family; a house of multiple occupancy; and home as a van –  which technically is homelessness.

From pre-war, and post-war homes, he captures suburban living for families and trendy apartments for city types. Homes of white stucco Georgian pillars and Edwardian terraces. Modernist towerblocks alongside Victorian villas, riverside apartment blocks and mansion blocks beside new social housing.

These are people all at different stages of life: with a past and future, with money in the bank – or not.

People who work long hours, who share their home with strangers, who have a built a home for their families, who have inherited wealth and privilege, who suffer ill-health, or the difficulties of ageing.

Donovan enables us to put a face to a space, and vice versa.

These are the same people we encounter in the street. People we work alongside on pavements… we see in shops or on the underground, or on and from the bus. And this is where they live. And how it is for them.

Because they must live somewhere.

We all sleep, leave and come back to some place we call ‘home’.

Donovan’s work highlights how, when we live in a city, we move in different circles and in different worlds.

In public spaces our paths may overlap but in our private spaces we are worlds apart: segregated by wealth, opportunity, privilege and quality of space.

These are homes that most of us only ever encounter on TV. The police drama, fly on the wall documentary, costume serial, antiques show – or news bulletin. 

Most of us will never be ‘that’ person or have ‘that’ lifestyle, clothes, job, education and politics

In our own world most of us will never know anyone so different from ourselves, or enter the spaces where they live.

Creative and inspirational, yet deceptively simple, Jonathan Donovan’s work gets right to the heart of a hidden world.

Rich and rounded, Donovan reflects something of the spirit of London.

This is what people think: what they look like, where they live and what matters to them.


Nuala Rooney, PhD

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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