birth/place

birth/place is the first project of Defining Place. There will be more to come.

Contributors to this project were asked to submit an image that represents to them the state where they were born. Some contributors have lived in their birth states for many years, some never considered that state a home at all. Images are posted weekly on Tuesday mornings.

As you will notice, this project is limited in its scope to the United States (and protectorates). This was the level of complexity that made sense to me as a beginning, and as a U.S. native myself, U.S. natives were the easiest folks to access. I would love to be able to take this thing international at some point, but for now, I’m working on 50 states & change.

I am grateful to everyone who participated in this project. If you’d like to contribute an image representing your birth state, please do drop me a line: julia@definingplace.com.

You can explore birth/place images below as posted, or you can click here for a random image.

Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

New Hampshire

"Old Man of the Mountain 4-26-03" by Jeffrey Joseph, public domain

Old Man of the Mountain 4-26-03” by Jeffrey Joseph, public domain


“The Old Man of the Mountain I chose, because (though he has since fallen) he has been the icon of everything to do with our state for a very long time. It’s one of those strange things that even though it seems silly, somehow meant a lot to you to know he was always there. To quote Daniel Webster, ‘Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.'” – Chris Therrien

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Arkansas

photo credit: M. Allen

photo credit: M. Allen

“This photo was taken at Petit Jean State Park on the wedding day of dear friends. It depicts wedding guests overlooking the Arkansas River on a late summer day. The image evokes Arkansas for many reasons, starting with the crazy-quilt landscape of Ozarks mountains, rich farmland, powerful rivers, and steep elevation changes. And it captures the heat and humidity that characterize the state through much of the year. Finally, it suggests my arms-length association with the place–I moved away from Arkansas as a small child, and while I have been back regularly since and know the place and its people reasonably well, I’ve always experienced it as an outsider.” – M. Allen

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Texas

photo credit: Justin Blandford

photo credit: Justin Blandford

“The wonders of digital photography have told me that this picture was taken on July 7th, 2008. That data has stayed buried and encoded in that picture since I exposed a digital frame of film on that day, and since it has moved to and inhabited several devices and computers since that date.

The person is my cousin, Andre, and he is cutting the letters ‘SB’ and an upside down cross into a mirror next to the words ‘HATE FUCK’ which my roommate, John, had cut into that mirror. A mirror that is where the seat should be on a the corner section of a sectional sofa. On July 7th I had just returned from trip to New York, and I had moved into a new apartment the day before I left for that trip. A coworker was about to move out of state and was unloading large items. He told me he had a sectional couch to give me. My roommate and I agreed to pick it up, and we were super bummed at it on sight; not wanting to insult my coworker we took it, and it went straight to our curb. It was remarked to have looked like ‘what Prince would have used for beach furniture in the 80’s.’

I’ve always loved everything about this shot. I love the composition, all the lines that run out of frame, the shapes that creep or slam in from the corners. The power line reflected on the mirror above Andre’s head is almost perpendicular or parallel to the edges of the frame, and it’s the only line that comes close. Closer than it looks at a glance. For a shot with a mirror in the center, there is perhaps no symmetry.

On a personal level. I love Andre’s expression of devious satisfaction. SB was a ‘bicycle gang’ that was a huge part of our social lives at the time. My cousin has been a key figure in my life for a long time. A close friend and someone who I can always count on. A guy who cracks me up, and know everything about me, and vice versa. So many little details in this picture are historical markers about Andre’s, John’s, and my life. It’s a nice artifact that I find myself referencing on occasion and I hope to always be able to look at it when I’d like.” – Justin Blandford

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

West Virginia

photo credit: Jamie Mathis

photo credit: Jamie Mathis


“Being from West Virginia and growing up in the Ohio River Valley has created a unique sense of place; the mountains have taught me fierce independence and the rivers have shown me adaptability. If you want to understand a people, look at their land.” – Jamie Mathis

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Illinois

photo credit: Larry D. Thacker, Jr.

photo credit: Larry D. Thacker, Jr.

“On the left is my father’s father, on the right is my mother’s father. Interesting, long before my parents were ever a thought, both my grandfathers ran around as good buddies with each other. They even witnessed a double murder as teenagers together. Howard, on the left, left Kentucky for Chicago after the Capitol Mines shut down to find work. Walter, on the right, stayed. Both established families that led eventually to my parents meeting. Howard going to Chicago established what still exists as a large part of my relatives in that area. My father ended up being stationed in Chicago in ’69 when I was born, though we all moved back to Kentucky by the time I was a year old. Much of our family then, the Thackers, split our identities between Middlesboro, KY, and Chicago, IL, simply due to one man’s need for work and his bravery for branching out to find it.” – Larry D. Thacker, Jr.

Click for another random image.

Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

still seeking states… and other updates

Sorry to interrupt our regularly scheduled broadcast, folks. I need your help. I’m very grateful to my contributors to date. But I’m still seeking contributions from a few states. If you know anyone who might have been born in the following states, would you please contact me, or have them contact me?

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

Man. That’s more states than I thought I was missing.

In other news: I’m in the planning stages for the next project in definingplace. I’m planning to begin by asking past contributors to contribute again to a different prompt. (No pressure, and I don’t send a bunch of emails; it’s just me over here, no automatons.) But of course new contributors are enthusiastically welcomed. If you’re interested, always, just shoot me a line: julia@definingplace.com.

Thanks for stopping by, and for your contributions & comments. Next week we’ll be back on track with a picture representing Illinois.

Oregon

By Bala from Seattle, USA (Bleeding SkiesUploaded by X-Weinzar) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Bala from Seattle, USA (Bleeding SkiesUploaded by X-Weinzar) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“This image embodies much of what I think of when I remember growing up in Oregon. It’s overlooking the Columbia River Gorge very near where my family lived. I have fond memories of growing up in this scenic spot, waterskiing on the river in the summer and braving the cold east wind in the winter. The building on the right side of the photo is the VistaHouse which was built atop Crown Point as a New Deal project and has a commanding view both to the east and to the west along the river.” – Mark Dotson

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Georgia

photo credit (used with permission)

photo credit (used with permission)

“I was ferried off from my birth state not long after emergence from the womb. I’ve only returned once, as a curious, six year old kid inspired by National Geographic. It wasn’t a pilgrimage to Atlanta that brought me back, but the lure of the alligators, the bald cypress, and the belching peatlands of Okefenokee Swamp. I remember it like this: front of the boat, edge of the seat, in nature, at home.” – Rob

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Nevada

photo credit: Meghan McElfresh

photo credit: Meghan M.

“My name is Meghan. This is a photo of me and my sister Rachel. I was born in Henderson, Nevada. Although I did not live in Nevada I visited there often because I have family there. My dad used to live in Las Vegas and this picture was taken at the pool in the apartment complex he lived in. I chose this picture for many reasons. Whenever I think of Vegas or Henderson I think of family. We would all meet at the pool or out in the desert and just spend time together. I also loved swimming and looked forward to going to visit because I knew I would get to swim in the pool. I also would get a killer tan! Some of my best memories were made there and I think of them often. I haven’t had the chance to visit Vegas or Henderson in many years but they both hold a special place in my heart, and always will.” – Meghan M.

Click for another random image.

Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.