In literary works, Local Color is a technique used by writers to evoke the imagery or the feel of a specific region. It typically refers to a character’s dialect or the manner in which they speak, but it can also refer to certain customs described in detail. Through such details, one would be able to fully immerse themselves into the story. The technique is also referred to as regionalism and it isn’t limited to the written word; it can be used in photography as well. This week’s inspiration, Downtown Rehoboth Beach, created by Nate Hughes, exhibits regionalism in this photographic sense. And…well…don’t you feel like you know this place?
It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what truly defines a particular area. And of course there are some places that are easier to define than others. So to understand the concept, let’s try to think of an iconic location: Paris, France. If you needed to define Paris with one photo, you could do it, and you wouldn’t even need to frame up the Eiffel Tower. You could photograph fresh breads and pastries in a bakery window, or people sitting at plaza-side cafe tables. You might even be able to fake the feel from a certain location in any city on any continent. But that’s not really the point, is it? The point is that you can evoke such a feeling – the accent, if you will – of such a location if you could portray enough imagery or symbolism in the shot.
You don’t need to know Rehoboth Beach to understand what we’re looking at. You don’t even need to know the title or see sand in the shot. Somehow, you know this place – even if you’ve never been there. You feel like you’re at a shore town somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Where else are you going to find an ice cream shop next to a french fry shop next to a candy shop with a mash of victorian styling and modern architecture? The only thing missing is the shop that sells seashell lamps, beach toys in mesh bags and lawn chairs. So we may not know the name of the place, and we may not be able to put our finger on the specific detail that sets this spot apart from other towns. But Nate has given us just enough information so that we can get a feel for his vision. The photograph is speaking to you: This is regionalism.
As an aside, I would like to take a moment to describe the compositional beauty of the photograph. Nate was shooting with a 15mm lens, which is pretty wide. But he chose to get really close to the Kohr building, so close that he couldn’t fit a defining lower-right corner into the shot. I like to see the subject anchored in the shot, but sometimes there is a taller order to be fulfilled. By framing the shot in such a way and from such a perspective, you can see the suggestion of a vanishing point. The line formed by the bottoms of the building is pretty obvious, but the line formed by the canopies is erratic and broken in several places. If Nate held a vantage point further from the building, or closer, perhaps we wouldn’t see that line. Perhaps the vanishing point wouldn’t be so apparent. But as he framed it, the image is strengthened.
Nate Hughes’s talented eye is trained on a number of subjects, but his travel photography stands out from the rest. Nate appears to be a details guy and he’s got a knack for identifying the features that help to define a space. This is a talent that he takes advantage of in his travel photography, and he helps you to understand – to feel – a culture no matter where he pulls out his camera. As always, you can find more of his works at Flickr.