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Phil Douglis | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Nineteen: Conveying a Sense of Place – A Town of Ghosts, Frozen in Time tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Gallery Nineteen: Conveying a Sense of Place – A Town of Ghosts, Frozen in Time

Most travel photographers make pictures to convey the appearance of a place. I try to make them to convey 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.

In this gallery, I will demonstrate how to give a place it’s “Sense of Place.” In the fall of 2004, I visited Bodie, the last great mining ghost town of the west -- a town of nearly 500 structures, creaking, bending and breaking in the blustery winds of the High Sierra. Some of them are now more than 125 years old, yet they still exist out there near the California-Nevada border, preserved as a California State Historical Park in a state of “arrested decay.” Between the Civil War and World War II, Bodie – one of the most murderous towns in the old west -- produced close to $100 million in gold and silver. When its mines finally shut down forever in the 1940s, the town withered and died. Only five per cent of what once was Bodie still remains. But what a five per cent that is!

In this gallery I offer you sixteen images that convey a “Sense of Place” about this unique town of ghosts, along with my explanations on how each of them works.

I’ve selected all of these images from my archive of digital travel articles posted at:

This gallery is presented in "blog" style. A large thumbnail is displayed for each image, along with a detailed caption explaining how I intended to express my ideas. If you click on the large thumbnail, you can see it in its full size, as well as leave comments and read the comments of others. I hope you will be able to participate in the dialogue. I welcome your comments, suggestions, ideas, and questions, and will be delighted to respond.