No Place and Every Place
I am a literal thinker. If you ask me to define “place”, I will tell you it is your physical surroundings, your geographical location, the “where” you are in this moment. The dictionary defines “place” this way: a particular portion of space, whether of definite or indefinite extent.
And in thinking about how the concept of “place” impacts my photography, I believe I missed the point. I initially defined place too narrowly, too literally. Because I tend to focus on subject matter and rarely include context in my images, I thought my photos were missing something, some critical element, that made them “less than”. I thought I had to let you see the “where” in a specific sense – “this image was created here, in Canton, Ohio” – in order to imbue my images with a “sense of place”.
But as we move deeper into this exploration in Kat’s course, I am finding that “place” has many aspects. And my definition will be unique, based on what details speak to me0. The choice of whether to include context is simply another artistic decision each of us must make.
I understand the visual world through small things; through an exploration of the seemingly mundane and unnoticed details that surround us. By finding geometry and intersections in unexpected places, I hope to create something from nothing. To show the beauty in the curve of a line; to discover the “other” world that exists inside the window’s reflection; in the fleeting transitions of light to shade.
Now I am wondering if the anonymous quality of my images might be something important; that my sense of place is actually “no place” or “every place”. That I am not removing myself from my images but showing you what I find entrancing in the world around me. Discoveries made and treasures found. Beauty that can be found anywhere and everywhere.
Perhaps by eliminating context, I allow you to overlay your own sense of place – and create an abstraction that has multiple layers of meaning.
Or maybe not.
Maybe it’s as simple as this: when images such as these fill my frame, I press the shutter button. Because I have to.
Written for “A Sense of Place” – an online photography course lead by Kat Sloma