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There are many ways to “see” and experience a place. Artists and photographers often do a particularly good job of capturing the non-verbal attributes of a location, perhaps because it is their job to look closely. Great artists can make us feel that we “know” a place even when we have never been there – how many Canadians feel an affinity to Algonquin Park because of the paintings of Tom Thomson, which can capture the area’s wind, rocks and harsh beauty in a single tree? Visiting Claude Monet’s home at Giverny, one has a strange sense of déjà vu, so iconic are his paintings of the gardens there. And yet his paintings show only pieces – it is the colours, the shapes, the “feel” of the place that is familiar. And where Monet conveys the place through details, the photos of Ansel Adams convey an overwhelming sense of space that exactly mirrors the physical feeling one has when standing in the landscape of the American West.
Whether world-famous or local, artists convey a level of intimacy that is achieved by constantly looking. They capture the elements that the rest of us only perceive as a vague feeling, thereby translating the sense of place into physical form.