"A place is a piece of the whole environment that has been claimed by the feelings."
~ Alan Gussow
I came across the above quote while reading The Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich. Heinrich uses this idea of place to identify home, a location that he describes as both physically and psychologically comfortable and familiar. And while I agree that a home is indeed a place that is familiar, I think, too, that this idea of place can also apply to the unfamiliar-- to the places where we travel, to the places we explore and to the places of art and photography.
I often say that the strongest images come when a relationship has been developed with the scene. Perhaps it is nothing more than a relationship of comfort, like Mr. Gussow suggests. Or maybe the scene creates a sense of awe, or some kind of inspiration. Or perhaps the scene stirs the opposite, resulting in discomfort or anxiety.
I readily admit that sometimes this relationship can be akin to love at first sight, and everything just clicks, making the creative process easy and the truths found readily discernable. But most often this relationship between the photographer and the land develops over time, walks, hikes, and multiple drives. Time spent alone. Time spent with oneself. Time spent feeling the local. It is a relationship deeper than passive evocation. It is a relationship that takes work and action because it is ultimately a relationship based on an understanding of the self gained through time with the land.
Finding Zen in Zion, Zion National Park, Utah, USA
Maze, Mountain Sheep Canyon, Navajo Nation, Arizona, USA
I get the words, and then I get to thinkin'
I don't wanna think, I wanna feel
And how do I feel?
~ Pearl Jam
When I am in nature I feel her presence. I feel the mountain. I feel the surf, the wave, the energy, the light. The act of taking the photograph helps me come to terms with these feelings and emotions, and in this sense the creative experience becomes the ultimate experience. We can never photograph the entire scene-- no matter how wide our lens or deep the zoom. So what is it that choose to put in the frame. And why? Where is the sense of place, the feeling in the scene? And is it translated into the frame? These are just some of the ideas that I try to conceptualize in my photography. Hopefully I am successful, and the viewer and I are both able to connect deeper with one another and to the land that holds us.
The Morning Road, Monument Valley, Navajo Nation, Arizona
Thanks for reading.