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Photography and A Sense of Place

Summer of 2022

July 1st - September 21st


Exhibition images of Pilar Goutas' Portrait series. MX KG IDENTIDADES by Secretaría de Cultura CDMX is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The original title for this showcase was going to be "the deep dive" as I was thinking about how photographers often concentrate their work on a specific place. The title changed because I became more interested in this idea that our “sense” of a place is literally connected to our senses - and that plays out in the photographer’s experience as well. When they’re doing this work they are connected to a place through all their senses, often going beyond the physical to include intangibles such as memory and feelings... it's about the interconnection and relationship between the artist and a place.

Evoking a sense of place goes far beyond "just the facts ma'am" and demands the artist find a way to bring the viewer into the essence of the experience. It’s never a surprise to me when I see ads featuring the "amazing shots" you can take with your new cellphone -  because strong imagery is not found in a camera. It’s found in the heart and mind of the artist who is struggling to find the right angle, the right light, figure out where to stand and what to include, and more importantly what to exclude. Additionally, stitching together a sense of place takes far more than a single image - it does take that deep dive of imagery, taken over time, that comes together to create a more nuanced and deeper understanding of a place. This practice feeds our instinctual need to explore - to know more about where we are - thereby knowing more about who we are. It's in our DNA - this need to get a sense of a place and deeply know it.


Crimes and Splendors: The Desert Cantos of Richard Misrach,  © The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1996

Photography has a long tradition of this practice - some photographers roam the same location their whole lives. A good example is Vivian Maier who prowled the streets of Chicago for over forty years and was so focused on the experience of shooting that she left behind tens of thousands of negatives ... and even unprocessed rolls of film.  Graciela Iturbide traveled throughout her native Mexico, giving voice to the indigenous, while Richard Misrach has studied the Southwest and Southern California through his Desert Cantos series since the late 1970s. More recently we have Tatsuo Suzuki and his Friction / Tokyo Street book with its gritty street photography documenting Tokyo life. While it's not photography - Jon Batiste's Freedom video rings with authenticity as he showcases his love for his hometown New Orleans.

The photographers in this showcase have explored their territories with goals that range from social consciousness to the erasing or easing of assumptions. Others have found that staking out a territory can be a way of grounding oneself through a connection to a physical space and place. Not all journeys are external and it’s possible to use photography to help you search for an inner sense of place and belonging - a place that can be an anchor in time. Once again thank you to Douglas Stockdale, photographer, founder and editor of PhotoBook Journal for curating another set of interesting photobooks.

Tami Bone


Mythos was inspired by my childhood, and the ever-present state of mystery that was my normal.  Not knowing who or where I came from meant that my awareness was filtered through an impression of wonder.  And hidden away within this wonder was a profound longing for a sense of place.

As a young child these longings for home and kinship permeated everything, but even so there was an untold knowing that could not be understood in a temporal way.  Perhaps having one’s own mysterious origin story encouraged a perception beyond what can be seen or touched:  something immeasurable and that transcends earthly relevance.

What exactly is a sense of place?  Is it a roof over one’s head, a mother country, a people bound by shared interests, or bona fide flesh and blood?  Or is it way out past the edge of what we can see and explain?  Is it possible that while we quest after materiality there is a deeper meaning that has to do with a recognition and a welcoming of our purpose within the great unknown?

Paradoxically, if we find the courage to surrender parts of ourselves and venture to see the unseeable and to know the unknowable, we might encounter a sense of place that is irrefutable, and that was there for us all along.  Maybe this is the journey of all journeys, and an expression of the shared mystery that binds us all together.

© Tami Bone, all rights reserved

10-Mile Radius

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.
— Wendell Berry

In 2013 I found a sizable lump in my right breast. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer—a disease long feared. My mother had succumbed to breast cancer after a five-year battle. Now it was my turn to live with it. This meant sitting with mortality, difficult side effects, and every other uncertainty thrown my way. As my treatment protocol intensified, my immune system became more compromised, requiring limited exposure to the world around me. So, I mapped it out: my day-to-day existence was now reduced to about a 10-mile radius.

Surrendering to this confined reality, I decided to engage in a daily ritual of seeking out images with my iPhone that would connect me to the immediacy of life. There was no filtering of what I found, only genuine curiosity to see things as they were and how I chose to frame them. Every detail and each day mattered, all inspiration for mindful expression.

I didn’t set out to make an art project about my experience with cancer, but over time realized my “seeing” practice was a conceptual way to show my quest for well-being and willingness to uncover overlooked aspects of the world and myself. By being present with truth, I opened myself up to healing and reclaiming life in the most profound way. 

© Cat Gwynn, all rights reserved

East of West LA

It doesn’t happen everyday but the reaction I like best to my photos is “Is this Los Angeles?” Somewhat surprisingly, this incredulity remains possible when photographing in large areas of the city. Although I have lived here for more than thirty years, I still have expectations inside my own head regarding what LA is supposed to look like versus what I see when I travel into the city’s huge sprawl of working class neighborhoods. In my experience, blue collar L.A. is terribly under-appreciated for its rough daytime beauty and lonely late night charms. And playing against these expectations is what a lot of my photography is about.

Would I even own a camera if I didn’t see Los Angeles as having such a rich visual territory to record? I’m honestly not sure. Cameras have been stalwart, almost magical mechanisms for more than a hundred years but it seems that something equally wonderful is needed from this world that is often far from magical.

© Kevin McCollister, all rights reserved



ARAMASA Taku was born in Tokyo in 1936, and lived in north-eastern China as a child. After Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, and the collapse of Manchukuo, he remained in China as a refugee for a further two years. Once back in Japan, he started a career as graphic designer, but turned to photography in the late 1960s.

In 1980 he reunited with his parents, from whom he had been separated, and started work on a photographic contribution to the effort of reuniting Japanese war orphans and their biological parents. This work branched into the photography of people of Japanese descent in Hawaii and South America.  In 2000, having completed what was effectively a grand tour of foreign lands, Aramasa turned his attention to Japan. He recounts how he searched for sites unsullied not only by humans but even by birds. Over the years the HORIZON project has evolved into three separate strands: The Border, Vegetation and Visible Transfiguration.

The images in Aramasa’s HORIZON series shown in this exhibition evolved naturally from the documentary work described above. They can be understood as the outcome of a new way of trying to address the insurmountability of the boundaries that lie between the nearby and the distant, and between the present and the past. Positioning his camera on clifftops overlooking the sea in different parts of Japan, he gazes into the distance at what lies beyond the invisible borders that define the nation’s territorial boundaries. The images are no longer documentary in that they seek out places where, as in a dream or trance, spirits hover and roam. Standing in front of these large-scale photographs, one is overwhelmed by the sense of being in the presence of spirits invited down to earth to be prayed to.

ARAMASA Taku started working on his HORIZON series in the latter half of the 1990s. Part of it was shown at a retrospective exhibition entitled Mokushi (Silence) held at Musashino Art University in 2006. The project became larger than initially intended and underwent a number of changes that resulted in further exhibitions at Tokyo Publishing House (Yokota Shigeru Gallery) in 2012, Annely Juda Fine Art in London in 2014 and now, in 2016, in the form of a solo exhibition at the Ginza Nikon Salon. This shows the HORIZON series in its most developed and comprehensive form.

© Aramasa Taku, all rights reserved

PhotoBook Journal

The last showcase inclusion of photography books was such a success that I'll be continuing it for this year. Many thanks to Douglas Stockdale, photographer, founder and editor of PhotoBook Journal for once again, curating a wonderful set of photography books where how the artist works with color is an important element.

The reviews are on a separate page, use this link.

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