Pac McClaurin Defines Documenting Place
The concept of a sense of place is very much in vogue these days. I started thinking about this nine years ago when I made a small souvenir photo book for participants in a church sponsored student work camp in Avery and Watauga counties. My task was to document the three weeks of camp and the sites each group of students improved by their labors. I made the books for the leaders. Driving about all over these two mountain counties making photographs gave me a much clearer understanding of the place in which I lived. Being relatively new in the region, this gave me a more deeply felt “sense of place.”
Joel Meyerowitz wrote in his book Creating A Sense of Place, “What exactly is a Sense of Place?” To me, a sense of place means not just what a place actually looks like, but rather, how it feels, what it represents or once represented, and what it might mean to us.
Making images that capture a Sense of Place usually involves expressing symbolic ideas central to the meaning of the place, instead of just descriptively recording its appearance. No single image can usually do this job by itself. To offer a true sense of place, we need to present a number of expressive images about that place, grouping them together as a photographic essay, a picture story, or a series of sequential images. Hopefully, when we have absorbed the meaning of them all, we will feel as if we can grasp the nature of that place.”
Photography has a lot to give to understanding a place as more than a location or landscape. It takes hard work and experience to begin to make photos that dig into the humanistic aspect of the place so that the images reflect the Place. Three basic steps: walk, talk, and click.
Thomson notes: Pac McClaurin recently retired from his position as photography instructor at Appalachian State, and now lives in Chapel Hill. To see how he aptly addresses the circumstance of place, check out his blog which documents his travels to wonderful places, such as Cuba, Spain, and Italy.