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Benjamin Willis Depicts Everyday Columbus in ‘The Home We Know’

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Benjamin Willis Depicts Everyday Columbus in ‘The Home We Know’Mockup of "The Home We Know," currently available for pre-order. Images courtesy Benjamin Willis and Soft Lightning Studio.
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Benjamin Willis calls his forthcoming book The Home We Know a love letter.

The monograph features the residents of Columbus in an introspective look that Willis centers on respect and integrity.

After following his work on Instagram, independent publisher Soft Lightning Studio — ran by queer, non-binary photographer Julie Rae Powers — reached out to Willis last fall to publish a monograph featuring his photos.

Willis said that the initial project snowballed into a pretty extensive one, spanning 88 pages of photos taken from 2017 to 2021.

Images courtesy Benjamin Willis and Soft Lightning Studio

They reached out to Columbus’ own international author and poet Hanif Abdurraqib for the book’s forward and introduction. Both Abdurraqib and Willis grew up on the East Side of Columbus.

Another Columbus resident, graphic designer Michelle Suttles, did the cover and layout.

The “home” in The Home We Know is the familiar, intangible and mundane, or the people you may see or recognize on the street and all of those things coming together, said Willis.

“This idea of that familiar, this idea of like our quotidian lives, very ordinary, mundane things that really are quite special and quite unique to this specific place,” he said.

Willis adds that if what the book depicts does not seem familiar, it should encourage people to engage with the spaces they find themselves in differently.

“I enjoy being a part of the world and engaging with it and participating fully, not only as an artist that essentially takes in and picks out what they want to show, but engaging fully with people in the space that I’m in,” he said. “I think a lot of people forget that you are necessary, you have to be a participant.”

In his work, Willis tries to meet his subjects with respect for who they are and the lives they lead.

“I try and photograph everything with respect and dignity. I think it’s very easy for photography to take advantage of…its subjects or the place in which it finds itself,” he said.

Photo by Benjamin Willis

The book is currently available for pre-order on a sliding scale of $55 to $80 and is expected to be shipped this fall. All funds will go toward the artist and production.

Willis hopes the book is a good representation of what’s in Columbus, and what might not always be here.

Home is something you can make and that feeling can be felt elsewhere, he said, but what is already here is also of value.

“That’s what I mean by a love letter,” he said. “I am trying to get people to see the place from which they find themselves as inherently valuable.”

As he mentions in the book’s afterword, there needs to be a shift in the way artists see things as well. It doesn’t take much to understand what they’re engaging with is deserving and worthwhile in and of itself, and that these spaces are what they put into it.

“What you cannot see, you cannot engage with,” he said. “We need to increase our ability to, increase our capacity to, see what is of worth.”

For more on The Home We Know, visit softlightningstudio.com.

For more on Benjamin Willis, follow him on Instagram.

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