In this photographic voyage, Stephanie LeVeque finds the soul of place tucked between a pulsing past and an illusory present.
by Stephanie LeVeque
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Light cut with shadows. Tradition melded with the present. Blurred lines between truth and fiction. Black and white bordering a gradient of grays.
A constant longing to discover new places juxtaposed against the stale reality of the mundane.
In early 2012, I spent six months in Asturias, Spain, and watched the sharp chill of winter thaw off my windowpane and transform the landscape into a lush emerald spring. On weekdays I spent hours studying linguistics, literature and musicology whilst tucked away in dusty, outdated classrooms. I passed weekends watching the incredible spectrum of Spanish landscapes flicker by the ALSA bus window. I called Oviedo home and roved freely across Spain and Europe.
I had spent ten years nostalgic for Spain, longing for a luscious cultural experience dripping with blind expectations. I was nostalgic for a place I had never visited and wasn’t even sure existed. To me, Spain would be crimson and burgundy, accented with the blazing arms of the Mediterranean sun, syncopated with strains of soulful Spanish guitar, and embraced by balmy, sensual nights. I would finally find a home where my soul could be at peace and be warmly understood.
But my experience was the antithesis of my nostalgia. It was wild and calm and beautiful and horrendous and slow and impatient and nothing and everything I wanted. I spent most of my days confused and searching while perfectly content in the moment. I snapped thousands of photos as I wandered aimlessly and purposefully across mountain ranges, coasts and borders. I wondered what the magnetism was in all I saw whilst hungrily pressing the shutter button in hopes of capturing the beauty and energy of each moment.
Months later, when I had acclimated to routine in the United States, I looked through my photos. I was distracted by the vibrant feast of colors and the only solution to find the true memory of place was to peel away the color by converting the pictures to black and white. Instantly I felt the heartbeat of each moment pulse against the frame of every photo. Nostalgia was buried beneath colors and hidden in the complex shades of gray.
In my search for the soul of place, I was most drawn to contrast, specifically of relentless tradition and the memory of the past amidst the social bulldozers of contemporary culture. Within the harmonious battle of the two concepts I found fresh blooms of upcycled culture.