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Reading the Built Environment

April 14, 2014

A benefit to my job at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa is that I work at a museum surrounded by 40 acres of forests that is surrounded by another 1400 acres of forests and open grasslands.  This past Friday after spending several hours dealing with budgetary matters, to clear my head I decided to take a walk in the woods.  I grabbed the Museum’s Nikon and headed out for a quick one mile trek around the Mississippian mound complex on which our museum is located and then through our 0.5 mile nature trail that connects to the six-mile trail at T.O. Fuller State Park.

I snapped the occasional photograph of images that resonated with me.  I got about half-way through the walk and began to think of conversations I often have with my colleague, Allison Hennie, who was back at the Museum, minding the store as it were.  Allison is an architect, anthropologist, museum studies person, now in a PhD program where she will look at concepts of landscape literacy and the built environment of prehistoric earthwork complexes.  I thought of comments I wanted to make to her as I walked the path.  Then I came to wonder about the photographs Allison might take as she walked along the path.  Interesting idea.

So when I got back to the Museum, I handed Allison the camera and asked her to walk the same loop as I had just completed and take 10 – 20 photos as I had done.  I was curious about the similarities and differences that might occur in our two sets of photographs.

Here is a slideshow of my set of photographs:

RC title copy


Here is a slideshow of Allison’s set of photographs:

AH title copy


Differences I note right off include:

  • my photos are more vegetation-centered, more green.  Allison’s photos are more holistic and include more of the earth and sky.
  • Allison incorporates more of the total environment, including the historic.  I intentionally framed photos to exclude the modern that was not made of wood.
  • In so doing my focus seems more past and Allison’s seems to have the past meet with the present.  This observation is also a key part of our discussions of landscape literacy where Allison reads more of the past by the present and I tend to make less of that connection.

An enjoyable walk in the woods, regardless.  Come visit us if you are in the Memphis area!




7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2014 1:05 pm

    Lovely set of photos! Enjoyed seeing the differences. What a beautiful setting.

  2. April 14, 2014 1:56 pm

    This reminds me of the power of using photography to document differing perspectives on a place, like in participatory design research or community-based research. If enough people take photos, some telling patterns and variations will emerge.

    • April 14, 2014 3:53 pm

      A great point. I posted a link on our FB page. Perhaps an idea might be to do some sort of pecha kucha type of thing where folks submitted 10 photos on slideshare. Thanks.

  3. April 16, 2014 1:00 am

    Wonderful comparison. Hinge is my favorite photo.


  1. Our Graduating Graduate Assistants – Allison Hennie | Chucalissa e-Anumpoli
  2. The Road Less Traveled at Chucalissa | Chucalissa e-Anumpoli

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