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We Love Where We Live


Louise Honée, We Love Where We Live, courtesy the artist

Being proud of where you come from has no limits. That counts as well in some of the lesser- known parts of the world some would rather forget, because they are no longer what they used to be, because they are no longer in bloom.

McDowell County in West Virginia is partly located in the wooded mountains of the Appalachians, once one of the richest areas in America due to coal mining. For decades one after the other mine was closed down, jobs disappeared and many people have left, leaving behind their homes. Throughout time more and more ghost towns arose with abandoned school buildings and stores, empty sport fields and rusty play equipment. Those who remained, hope the tide will turn.

What future prospects are still offered to the youth growing up in this area. The young people adapt to their situation, strolling around with no clear destination, they are also proud. They cannot leave or do not not want to leave at all. Some, they don’t know better.
Indeed, the Appalachian mountains function as a closing border but at the same time act as a natural protection wall. Young people enjoy the strong solidarity that characterizes the community. It offers warmth and safety.


Louise Honée, We Love Where We Live, courtesy the artist

Somewhere along the road is a sign with the inscription We Love Where We Live. Fascinated by that apparent contradiction, the evident problems in the area and the intense solidarity of the people, the transience, I searched for the profound sense of individuality of young people, who are strongly connected to each other by the same environment where they grow up. In my narrative the encounters of the children of this breathtaking area gradually flow into the images of the spaces they inhabit.

I am interested in telling an image story about the identity children growing up in the rural and industrial area of the Appalachian mountains. In my work I observe the nature in combination with a more direct approach to picture my portraits, but also here I follow my instinct to observe the movements and gazes of my subjects. I try to connect with the anonymus individuals who become more and more familiar with me when the ice breaks. By winning their trust I am allowed to photograph them. The direction of my narrative is shaped by the new things I discovered in every journey and by the different encounters that I had.

All the pictures form this series are made in McDowell County, West Virginia, in the United States. They came into being over a period from spring 2017 to autumn 2019. It became a project that moved me. Surprised by the warmth and openness of the people over the time strangers became friends, that gave me confidence to keep going back to this special place.

Louise Honée

Louise Honée, We Love Where We Live, courtesy the artist

« For childhood is certainly greater than reality. »

Gaston Bachelard


We all somehow belong to the places of our childhood. We grow with them, our roots in the ground of endless games, walks, races; our heads among the foliage, hanging from tree tops, lying on the grass. Season after season, we are part of the environment and immersed within its atmosphere. Spaces become a playground for constant discoveries, wanderings of imagination, daydreams. They shape the way we relate to each other, how we adjust to situations, how we learn to know ourselves in the world.

The young population of McDowell county, West Virginia, lives surrounded by the Appalachian mountains in one of the poorest areas of the country. In these mostly abandoned towns, still remains the industrial wreckage of a recent past; concrete and iron relics of a wealthier time of coal mining, when human were excavating and extracting from the land. The vegetation is now reclaiming its rights over these ruins, luxurious and thriving in its slow and constant growth.

Time could appear almost suspended, if it wasn’t for the young figures strolling, playing, observing, climbing; inhabiting and reclaiming the space with all their energy and bodily presence. Louise Honée follows them around their meeting places, the ones holding and shaping their community: school, church, playground, but also the streets, the backyards and the woods, limited and sheltered by the wilderness of the Appalachians. In her practice she has developed a privileged relationship with childhood and adolescence, which she observes with delicacy, with attention, slowly building up a relationship yet remaining at discreet distance. 

Her visual research focuses on this ephemeral yet fundamental period of life, an intense combination of fragility and resilience, in the interval between the not yet and not anymore. The surroundings often mirror this complexity, territories in transition caught between industrial and rural, between wealth and poverty, between progress and decadence, between past and future. But the present, with all its contradictions, the present is all theirs, of these kids, in their gestures, bodies, relationships, gazes. This is their land, their home, their playground, in spite of it all. This is the place where they live.

Rachele Ceccarelli

2.Weeping Swan.2017.jpg

Louise Honée, We Love Where We Live, courtesy the artist


After finishing her study Art History at the University of Amsterdam, Louise Honée discovered her  passion for photography. She decided to continue her studies at the Photo Academy of Amsterdam and specialized in documentary photography. Since then, Honée has been working as a portrait and documentary photographer.
The central subject in her photography is the indestructible hope of the youth, capturing this fragile hope in all kinds of circumstances. Always on the look out for the poetry in a story, Honée gathers the images she creates together, in the form of a visual novella, wherein the people she meets have a role in their own context.

She was the recipient of the HSBC Prize 2020 for the series We Love Where We Live, which constitutes one of her major projects, exhibited in several festivals and galleries. It has been published by Éditions Xavier Barral


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