We Are Home Today, Tomorrow, Too: Hikikomori, the Modern Hermits
In big cities it has long ago become popular to live without leaving the house: delivery services, messengers and electronic payments can help solve most everyday tasks. Natalia Ershova photographed people who voluntarily refuse to leave their apartment.
Hikikomori (or hiki, from Japanese ‘being in solitude’) is a modern-day hermit lifestyle when people prefer not to leave their apartment and limit social contact with the outside world, leaving just a narrow circle of friends and relatives.
Before accessible Internet, many hiki had trouble working or shopping, but now this problem is solved. If there is a need, the Internet also provides them communication with the outside world.
Photographer from Moscow. Exhibited her work in Russia, Latvia, France, and Turkey. Published her work in FotoRoom and the Russian Reporter.
— When I was working on my thesis at my university I had severe headaches — as it turned out, I had a problem with a nerve in my face. And while I was sick, I barely left home, I communicated only with my husband and on the Internet. I then found out that there are people who deliberately chose this way of life, and I have even met some of them on social networks. I realized that the Internet allows you to have this way of life and it is rather common. When I got better and defended my thesis, I started looking for characters and shooting.
People who I shot for my project barely leave their homes. Many of them work from home — programming, web design, video game review, or writing music; some rent an apartment, and some live for the money they receive from their relatives. They are very different people united by one thing: they ‘live’ on the Internet. Some of them have many friends with whom they communicate with online or in their homes. And some of them are modern hermits.
Relatives and friends helped me with the search: I asked everybody, even my hairdresser, and gradually found people I needed. With some I agreed to meet many times, and they refused to take part in a shoot at the very last moment; I had to talk them into it.
I photographed my characters in their apartments, with their pets and favorite things. I put a question to each of them: why do you live like this?
These people communicate mostly with their relatives; it happens that they invite home online friends or people they’ve known since school or university. They are rather social, I had no trouble maintaining a conversation with them.
They have many hobbies and interests; they like collecting things. They need warmth and the love of their pets, that’s why they usually have many things and cats.
My heroes can go out into the street, they don’t have a panicked fear of going out into the street. However, they do it very seldom — maybe once in several months — when, for instance, there is no one at all to do their shopping. They can attend some event, but very rarely, once in several years.
Most of the people now are Internet-addicted in one way or the other, and my characters help us imagine the extreme version of such an addiction. I think that with the development and expansion of the Internet this trend will become very relevant, especially in big cities where life is too fast, and there is too much stress and too many people.
Most of the people now are Internet-addicted in one way or the other.