In Place: Glimpses from a Shrunken World
Updated: Mar 16, 2021
In Place is a collection of my photos taken in and around my home during 2020. These images are like a journal entry from a typical weekend although they were not all taken over the course of one day. My hope was to try and create a little memory book from the year, which was important in many unexpected ways.
This project came out of three distinct impulses: my interest to use film as a documentary medium, my growing aesthetic interest in black-and-white, and my interest in paying greater attention to my everyday surroundings.
For me, film is a good choice for a documentary project because negatives exist independently of computer databases. My dad sometimes says that there are additional Dead Sea Scrolls, but we can't access them because we don't know the file format. Developed negatives are therefore, in today's terms, a great backup and stand on their own as a record of the past. Therefore film is a sensible choice for a project that is about keeping a record. I would note that one of the pictures in the series was originally captured digitally. In particular, this outlier was the picture of the pigeons flying among the power lines. I considered excluding this image from In Place because it was captured digitally. In the end, I decided against that course of action because I took my usual approach to taking that image. Plus, although film has an affinity for documentary projects, I think digital has a very important place in documentary projects. If anything, digital capture has expanded our ability to document the world around us, and ultimately, the pictures you're viewing are digital images, rendered on a computer monitor.
Black-and-white appealed to me for a few reasons. I wanted to practice, and ultimately expand, my compositional skills. This practice was difficult but rewarding. I found myself enjoying images that had interesting textures and shapes (often triangles). That new information is very interesting to me. Black-and-white also appealed to me because I often connect black-and-white to famous documentary projects that I enjoy. Here I'm thinking of August Sander, Eugene Atget, Brassai, Walker Evans, Robert Frank and W. Eugene Smith. This list, of course, is just a small sample--many other photographers could be mentioned alongside these marquee names. My project covered much narrower, more personal grounds than any of the famous projects done by those photographers, but I think I wanted to tap into that tradition. Again, I hardly mean to imply that color can't be used for a documentary project. But I think the nostalgia associated with black-and-white photography adds to my project. It also hints at journal entries and sketchbooks, which are typically written in black-and-white.
This project came out of an extensive process of looking closely at my everyday surroundings. In the past, I've taken pictures of things I think are beautiful (like flowers) and things that I may not see again (like the Sagrada Familia). In either case, I wanted to photograph these things in a way that is fairly deferential. It's my interpretation, of course, but I wanted those images to capture the flower or building I've seen. By contrast, all the time I've spent this year in relative isolation has focused my attention on my very local environment and my place in it. To state the obvious, I'm not a tourist or occasional observer of my own home. And for that reason, I in some ways know my home too well. I asked myself, What would I find if I paid careful attention? So I picked up my camera and started to look.
I don't know yet whether the resulting images are interesting, but I think it's been a good project for me. Moving forward, I'm going to keep refining this gallery. I may add images to the gallery or perhaps just reorder the sequence because some of my negatives are still being developed and I haven't yet reviewed all the images on my hard drive.
I hope you enjoy!