Hello and welcome to my first ever personal photo project, People in Places. This is a current project so make sure to continually check this post for updates as more stories unfold!
About People in Places
This project is about exploring people's relationship with places. The people who have felt like they've needed to move to **insert city here** in order to find happiness, success, etc. The people who have actually acted on that feeling. The people who have found contentment for where they are. The ones who never stop moving. The reasons for it all. Every person has such a unique relationship with places.
About the Process
I introduced People in Places via instagram with this video to hopefully recruit people who felt like they resonated with the project. From there I sent out an introductory email to everyone and got to know their story a little via email. After hearing snippets of stories, I picked the right people to go through an honest-to-goodness podcast style interview with. I set up individual times and dates to meet with people for an hour slot. From there (weeks and weeks later), I find the perfect location to match them and their story and we have a photoshoot.
Before we get in this, I want to share my own relationship with places.
My Relationship with Places:
I was born in Seal Beach, California, a little beach town in Orange County righttt outside of *LA*. When I was 8, the company my dad worked for was bought out, leaving him jobless. He applied to new jobs in his field for a couple of months but ultimately decided to start a business with his brother and move the family back to his OG state, Ohio. When we left Seal Beach, I was in that sweet age when everything around you is still full of magic and wonder. So that's how I left California, and that's how it's stayed in my heart - this place of magic, happiness, and wonder. For a lot of my life, I've worked with the intention that one day I would move back to where it all started. I felt like moving back was the only way I would be able to find happiness, and as an artist - success in the photography world.
But here's something I've learned as I've gotten older - my happiness is not tied to a person, nor a place. It's just tied to me and everything that entails (who I spend time with, the aesthetic I surround myself with, and the purpose I pursue).
And what I've learned about "success" in terms of places is that right here, right now, the world is so connected because of the internet. Podcasts allow me to be apart of conversations with the creatives I admire. Youtube provides me with *free* knowledge on anything I could want to learn. Instagram allows me to share my work with an audience outside of where I live. My location, isn't something that holds me back in the way it might have before.
Ali is originally from Erie, PA and went to college in the Cleveland area of Berea, OH. After graduation, she moved to Brooklyn, NY. I got to chat with her in her dreamy Williamsburg apartment about her relationship with places and I left feeling utterly inspired by her words and mindset.
Ali is someone who finds happiness and charm wherever she is. She has so much love for the quirky midwestern spots of her hometown. She could go on for hours about the Erie specific foods she still craves, and especially the cheap non-authentic queso dip she can't seem to find anywhere in the city. And the vintage stores she grew up scavenging through. Of course in the new city she lives in, she seeks out that same kind of charm. The charm can sometimes be found in vintage stores, and sometimes in familiar food spots -- she told me about how her and her friends ventured to the only Dairy Queen in New York for the quest of a nostalgic frozen treat.
For Ali, moving to New York City wasn't neccessarily something to be romanticized. It was simply a place where she could find a job in her field of jewelry. A place where she'll find the happiness and charm because that's her thing.
In her words:
"I've always been a nostalgic person; most of my jewelry work in college focused around the idea of nostalgia, and the feeling I'm always chasing of people and places of the past. My grandparents house that burnt down, that flea market they did every Sunday morning in the summer at the old drive in movie theater in my hometown, the knick knacks and secret passageways of the bed and breakfast run by the woman who taught me to knit. This feeling was easy to see in Middle America, where old habits and traditions and REAL TRUE secondhand stores exist. (If you're in NE Ohio or NW Pennsylvania, it's worth a trek to all of the rundown stores in Cambridge Springs and Waterford, hmu for some good places to DIG)
In the fashion industry, it's basically required to move to New York City, but I didn't mind. I had dreamed of the big city for almost my whole life, but had never been until we were unpacking a van full of belongings for my first internship after my junior year of college. I thought I would be dazzled all the time, but really, New York is just another (more expensive) place. It has a different brand of nostalgia, but I seem to chase it all the same. Eighty year old Jewish delis where you'll get the best pastrami of your life, original Art Deco buildings that house tech startups, everyone vying for fully restored, multi-million dollar apartments for their pre-War charm.
I think New York is just like anywhere else, people are always trying to escape the Midwest because they feel trapped, people are always trying to escape the city for the same reasons! While the Midwest may seem stifling for a career, the city can be stifling in almost every other aspect of life, if you let it. Right now, I'm just trying to exist and find the charms in any place I live or visit, trying to find a piece of that place to bring with me whenever I leave."
Keep watching this space for more stories and updates of People in Places!