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 


Posted on April 24, 2012, in Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I like an image to be a world in itself, for people to explore, not necessary the world as we know it. Your photos of a mirrored world are just that, a place no one been to before for me to explore.

    • Barbro – I really like that idea – of an image being a world in itself. To see the world in a way that is different from the reality around us. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your encouragement to me to keep shooting what I shoot. You don’t know how much I appreciate it.

  2. Such interesting thoughts about ‘place’. What if ‘place’ is where your heart is? As you said – you make your ‘place’ when you see and capture..because you have to???

  3. Love this image Brenda!
    I think I could look at it for a very long time, and still see something new.
    Beautifully done.
    Sending you wishes for a wonderful day ahead!

  4. I love this image and your words too. I think you’re right, place is so much more than a geographical location and your eye as a photographer and the details that speak to you and that you include in an image do translate into a sense of place – even if it is ‘no place’. As always, a very thought provoking post.

  5. I think your sense of place is both your place and everyplace. It is particular to where you live and what you see and choose to photograph. It is also everyplace in that it allows me to see these types of scenes where I am, in my place. Your photographs are specific to one place, and they also transcend one place and can be found in many places. It is one of the aspects of your images that I find to appealing.

  6. Brenda . . . I think your place is your vision — the space uncapped by the whorl of your photographic eye. I love how you describe yourself here as seeing the small, the mundane, the intersections, and I think you take those elements and create a magical geography. And, yes, it is one that your viewer, that each of us, can inscribe with meaning — which is a gift. It’s also what draws me to your images. For myself, I wouldn’t describe them as no place or everyplace. They are so uniquely you. So, you create the universe — isn’t that what artists do? (xoxo, lisa)

  7. Brenda – as someone in the grip of a creative journey myself, may I say how much I appreciate your examinations of your artistic impulses. It is so fascinating to read about this process, especially when I find myself in the grip of resistance and fear and certainty about my not-enoughness. Your honesty on this path is affirming. Thank you.

  8. Love this picture & your thoughts about place , and this:
    ” That I am not removing myself from my images but showing you what I find entrancing in the world around me. “

  9. I like where you’re going with this, Brenda. You give me plenty to think about. Maybe when you “have to” click the shutter, it’s because something in you is connecting to what you see. Maybe place is when you see something that’s universal, right where you are.

  10. Extremely thought provoking…and I’m so looking forward to taking this class one day! Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. Brenda, yes, yes, YES!! That quality of “no place” or “every place” is one of the things I love about your photography. I love that whole paragraph where you are musing about your “anonymous images” (which they are not, by the way). You’re not showing us Canton, Ohio, the place. You are showing us Brenda’s world, the place. And now I see bits of Brenda’s world everywhere I go.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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