Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Home and Place: Capturing it in Art, Natural Beauty, and Relationships

Sometime last spring around March, I was mesmerized by the sighting of a Great Grey Owl that took up residency outside of Madison. Although that bird has moved on, I was thankful for the photo Jeremy Hemberger captured, one that created a long-lasting impression in my mind.  I've known Jeremy for several years, primarily as a climber and after seeing his photos, I wanted to know how he uses the art of photography to capture home and place.  I love how he tells his story, especially how his "home-life" unfolded - circumstances many can relate to.  Mostly though, his message of capturing home and place is candid, forthright, and pretty sweet.  See some of his good work below his bio at the bottom of this post.  Read on and enjoy! 

Middleton, Wisconsin.  Cross Plains, Wisconsin.  Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.  New Glarus, Wisconsin.  Platteville, Wisconsin.  Madison, Wisconsin.  I suppose I agree with Todd’s first assessment (see his post below) of how we see places we call home: Geographic localities – places on the map that to us bring feelings of place and purpose.  Places where we grew up, where we shared memories (both good and bad). My homes have changed frequently over my young life.  My parents were never married.  While one stayed in the same place (Middleton), the other spiraled further and further away from my school and homes where my friends lived.  During my young life, I struggled with this concept as I saw all of my friends coming and going from the same place every day; whereas I never really knew whose house I was going to that night.  I was at two households sporadically through the week, with the balance of my time spent at my best friend Daniel's house.  His family built yet another place that I call home - treating me as if I was their own son.

Looking back at this and I think it made me who I am.  My vastly different experiences in two households often in different geographies of the state (relatively speaking) exposed me to a lot of people, places, and ideas.  But it was through my father and our adventures when I was a kid that I was brought closer to the place I know I can always call home: the natural world. 

For twenty-four years, I have been hooked to the places that allow me to take in the beauty and be inspired by Mother Nature’s brilliance.  Often when I say this, people assume I am talking about the National Parks, The Redwoods, Mt. Everest - the places where the most pristine landscapes we know of still exist unmolested.  I have been fortunate enough to visit some of these places.  I have stood in the stands of the mighty Redwoods and felt for the first time a sense of insignificance.  Walking delicately among the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone, I caught a glimpse of the forces that helped to sculpt this incredible planet.  While these landscapes fill us with awe and marvel, they helped me to see something else.

When I returned from the trips that brought me face to face with these natural wonders, my views toward my home surroundings changed.  It wasn’t a feeling of desolation – a sort disappointment with my surroundings as compared to the great places I have been.  Rather, it was a respect and ability to see profound beauty in anything that surrounded me.  The pond across the street from my grandparents where I spent the better part of my young life took became a new playground again.  The marshes, woodlots, and state parks became extensions of my home.  I started searching for a way to capture this beauty and how I felt about it.  I began using the only media I knew I could do justice with - photographs. 

While I had used a camera in the past to preserve memories and places I had visited, it now became a different type of implement.  Before it had been a tool, and it now was becoming my pen, brush, or clay.  My artistic goal wasn’t abstract or shrouded in mystery.  I simply wanted to help others see the beauty that lay in front of them every day.  This type of message, I thought, could change how people see the world and perhaps foster a deeper respect, in much of the same way the Redwoods did for me. 

I am by no means an amazing photographer.  I stumble through self-taught, experimenting, and spending far too much money.  My photos are of things some may consider everyday images or wildlife.  That’s often true.  But I still capture these because I do want people to see what beauty lies just outside their door.
Wisconsin has always been outside my front door.  The culture, people, University, family, and friends all make me feel like I belong.  I have become a part of new communities over the years that have further set my foundation here.  Recently I have begun whole new chapter of my life as a graduate student here in Madison.  Perhaps most important to me though, is that I have started a whole new home with the person I love the most.  While this place is still in Madison, sharing it with someone you care about so much makes it a whole new experience. 

As the months go on, though, there will come a time when it is time for me to move on - to set down new foundations in new communities.  I don't know when this will be, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't afraid.  Despite my fears, I know that there will always be something to comfort me wherever I go.  I will always be able to marvel at and capture her beauty flying overhead, towering over me, flowing in front of me.  And when I do feel far away from home, I will have an incredible girl next to me who reminds me, that I am at home whenever we're together.  

Jeremy is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin studying entomology.  When not chasing insects around, he can be found at the climbing gym, on his mountain bike, out taking photographs, or eating donuts and enjoying time with family and friends.  To see some of his photography, or to learn about his research and academic pursuits, please visit

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