In this work, Southern Compass, I utilize the process of walking as a path to knowing in order to investigate the psychological landscape of my past by photographing the landscape of my hometown, Greenville, NC. In her book, Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit makes the observation, “Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.” Limiting myself to days when the sky is gray, I make images that speak to the uncertain memory I feel in the space as I am traversing it; images composed by an ambiguous light where the time of day is not known, when the light is soft and the landscape and sky meet at an indeterminate point.
Although my family moved to the South when I was six, I never identified with being southern, worked hard to not gain a southern accent, and grew up wishing to be elsewhere, always feeing like a “stranger in a strange land”. The view of Mount Rainier from my bedroom window in Seattle was replaced by the view of flat open land, expansive skies and ragged pine trees of eastern North Carolina. During my time in Rochester, my thoughts have often strayed to those views of straggly pine trees as seen from a distance, a necessary distance. In choosing to not specifically identify the landscape as "southern" by using well-known visual tropes, I consciously chose to make a body of work that allows the viewer a space to travel through, perhaps to his or her own past, or perhaps forwards, seeing in the distant horizon, the possibilities of the future.
Imaging Arts (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (CIAS)
Goers, Gail, "Southern Compass" (2016). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus