The Psychology of Places

If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say:  the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

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I became aware of something today.  Or at least more aware than usual of something I understand in the abstract.

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There is another transition going on, and I now find myself between three places – the one where I use to live, the one where I live today, and then a third that is really the place I want to be.  I know that sounds cryptic, but let me explain…

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The places we occupy influence our consciousness and our emotions, and in ways I think we seldomly stop to see or understand.

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What I found most striking today is that as I moved back and forth between these three places today, I became more aware of my thoughts and emotions, and how much of who I am is tied to these locations, both in a long-term since of self, but also in the immediacy of my experiences today.  My thoughts an emotions changed radical from one place to the next as I negotiated each of these three places.

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And that led me back to my work in Denver.

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Since 2011, I’ve been photographing my hometown of Denver, CO.  I moved away over 20 years ago, but have fallen in love with the place these recent years.  My goal in photographing the city the past years has been to document both the culture history I see in the city, but also my personal history within it.

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In pausing to recognize the psychology of place I found while traveling back and forth today between my homes new and old in Ithaca – in a way that I can feel but not fully say – I had a new understanding of my work in Denver.

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The places we occupy influence everything about who we are, our thoughts and emotions.  And that can be understood both in immediacy and in decoding our personal history.


Words are…little houses, each with its cellar and garret.  Common sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in ‘foreign commerce’ on the same level as others, as the passer-by, who are never dreamers.  To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw step by step; while to go downstairs to the cellar is to dream, it is to lose oneself in the distant corridors of an obscure etymology, looking for treasures that cannot be found in words.  To mount and descend in the words themselves – this is the poet’s life.  To mount too high or too low is allowed in the case of poets, who bring earth and sky together.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

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This might all sound obscure, but I make pictures where words fail me.


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