Photographing Small Towns

1.The main street 2. town clock 3. out to dinner 4. barber shop 5. gallery 6. church

The pictures I see of cities and towns are usually of exotic locations, and show glamorous and architecturally interesting buildings. I admit that I enjoy photographing cityscapes and easily loose track of time when I am left to wander about on my own in just about any high-building packed city.

Recently, I have been fortunate enough to view the colorful building photography by Australian photographer, Leanne Cole, at http://www.leannecole.com.au and French photographer, Mathias Lucas’ architectural work at http://mathiaslphotos.wordpress.com.  Both photographers got me to think about winter building photography, but, for me, it is a drive of many miles from my rural home to a city with tall buildings.

I wondered about small communities that are scattered along the Thompson River valley. Most aren’t glamorous, or exotic, and although there might be some architecturally interesting buildings left from bygone times, they are often treated by most travelers as convenience stops on the way to somewhere else.

Not far from my backwoods home is the small lakeside town of Chase. When photographers go there they pass through the town center  with barely a glance on their way to the park beach and boat pier. The single-street town isn’t really significant to view with its single story, flat-topped, mostly featureless buildings, and I go to Chase as a place to get something forgotten from my main shopping trip to the larger city of Kamloops where I work.

I sat looking at Lucas’ and Cole’s engaging building images, and even searched out some of my recent files from my October trip to Victoria, British Columbia, and wondered if I might be able to make some interesting photographs of that little village up the valley.

The day had climbed above freezing with some patches of blue sky. I mounted an 18-200mm lens on my camera and headed off on the short drive along the Thompson River to Chase.

My choice of an early afternoon, midweek day was perfect. There were a few vehicles parked at the city curbs, the traffic (unlike on a weekend) was light, and I could easily walk across the street anytime, and I even stood center-street for a few shots.

I took my time wandering along trying different angles, exposures and took more than one shot of each scene choosing different cars, trucks, people and buildings in my quest to make interesting images of the village. I always can tell local residents. They are the ones that don’t mind a photographer, smile, and say hello as they pass. Tourists seem impatient, avert their gaze, and quickly walk past as if my camera is stealing something.

Photography in larger centers is easy, sometimes overwhelming, and always exciting. However, one has to get in the mood and culture when photographing small towns like Chase. I suppose it’s all about trying to observe the town with a thoughtful attitude.

I found a quote by iconic documentary photographer Elliott Erwitt that seemed to fit what I hoped to accomplish as I made images in that small town, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

I made lots of pictures of that small town for this article and included only those that showed the village in its valley location. In any event, I was pleased with the results of my adventure in Chase. In my experience going over ones pictures with a fresh look days later is always a good idea and I intend to do that and may post them sometime later.

I know there are many photographers living in the towns along the British Columbia, Thompson River valley; yet, I rarely see creative work showing the places they live. For years I have attended local art shows that always include local photographers who try their best to produce art-worthy images, but I can’t remember seeing any depicting Chase or any other small city here in the interior. I suppose we become too familiar with our homes and don’t take the time to observe and photograph an interesting view that comes from an ordinary place.  I encourage readers to take a new look.

I always appreciate your comments, Thanks

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

6 responses to “Photographing Small Towns

  1. Great article John. I too like photographing “small towns” my favorite being Ashcroft There is a big difference between “looking & seeing” A person can drive right through a place and not see a thing, or a person can look and find very interesting photo opportunities.

    Like

  2. I love photographing small towns, though I have to drive a long way to do it, I especially enjoy photographing the town my mother lives in. There is something simple and quaint about an old town.

    Like

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