Laura Pickett Calfee’s color photographs in Of A Place were images of interiors of Texas homes that were intimate, unvoyeuristic views of a half dozen homes in Luling, Liberty, Archer, Austin, Terrell, and other Texas counties which she began photographing in October of 1996.
Laura Calfee grew up in Liberty, Texas, with generations of relatives living all around her. Many of them lived and died in the houses where they were born. So, when she started to photograph their homes, the intimacy of looking through the rooms provoked surprising feelings and long-forgotten questions. She found herself examining other place-bound families and their culture by photographing the interiors of homes around the state.
Calfee’s criteria for her photography project were simple: she wanted to photograph a home rather than just a house; it had to be currently lived in and generally kept in a family for generations. Her most important criterion was that the people who lived in the home were place-bound by choice. The artist then interviewed the family and then the place was photographed. Through her photographs, Calfee discovered why these families chose to stay in one place. There were hints in family pictures on the bureau, the baseball trophy gathering dust, and the idiosyncratic juxtaposition of freshly jarred pickles and regional histories on the breakfast room shelf. The clutter and mementos were the telltale signs of an enduring world. The relationship of the surroundings to people’s lives and their family histories spoke volumes about who they were and what really mattered to them. They were people with the resilience to stay in one place-or the wherewithal to return to a place-which has some mysterious draw, a permanency, a foundation. Calfee’s resulting photographic images showed that what people surround themselves with is what is most telling about their lives.