Does Scene Create Style?

As I start packing to move back to Boston, I’m wondering about my architectural style. Does scene create style? Does the world around you form your tastes, or do you find the things you like, whever you are?

I found this quote from Jung (maybe apocryphal?) in a book on aging a few years ago. I keep it nearby, because it centers me:

Observe what you do to learn who you are.

How better to observe yourself than to view, literally, what you create?

I came into photography with previous tastes, from life as an aesthete and designer. I like clean lines, dramatic black and whites, blasts of color, carving simple from complex, and building complex from simple. Did I move to Albuquerque because I’m drawn to those qualities, or did I come to love them because I moved here?

At some soul-level, this question is always buzzing for me. It’s usually that abstract, but with this move, it’s becoming concrete. The buildings I see every day comfort me. I love their lines, their colors, their shadows. Even when I don’t consider them formally, they feel warm, loved, ripe, and welcoming. And when I break them down, specifically for those lines, colors, and shadows, they reward me fast and tirelessly. The New Mexican sun is my most reliable collaborator.

Boston is another animal. The lines go… everywhere. In a given block, you may see a conversation between architects, but the predominant style is pre-Modern. English, Dutch, and early American. Built for cold, for utility. Abandoned and rebuilt, sold and retrofitted, generation by generation. In one sense, it’s a cornucopia. In another, it’s… a mess. And the Boston sun is about as dependable as the Burque job market.

So how will my work change when I don’t have access to those shadows? Does scene create style, or does style determine scene? Will I fight for those clean lines? Spend more time in Photoshop, removing distractions, making surreal impressions of places? Maybe create those shapes in the studio? Or will I find something else to grip me? I’d sure love to spend more time on studio portraits, which don’t require climate cooperation at all.

There’s a lot to recommend Boston—my partner, my parents, the explosion of options, the expanse of trains and bus routes, Wellesley, the seemingly endless job opportunities, and the dependable sources of water, to name only a few. I’m excited to go. So soon, again, into the unknowing.


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