Peter Nicholson

What Cheer?

Peter Nicholson,  untitled (blue house and birds over I95) , Providence, Rhode Island, 2016

Peter Nicholson, untitled (blue house and birds over I95), Providence, Rhode Island, 2016

untitled (downtown seen from the harbor) , Providence, Rhode Island, 2015

untitled (downtown seen from the harbor), Providence, Rhode Island, 2015

untitled (apartment houses and shadow) , Providence, Rhode Island, 2015

untitled (apartment houses and shadow), Providence, Rhode Island, 2015

untitled (man sleeping on state house lawn) , Providence, Rhode Island, 2015

untitled (man sleeping on state house lawn), Providence, Rhode Island, 2015

untitled (common variations of housing) , Providence, Rhode Island, 2016

untitled (common variations of housing), Providence, Rhode Island, 2016


What Cheer? is an intimate exploration of the city of Providence, Rhode Island, and owes its name to the city’s motto. The intent is truthful representation; a balance between allowing the city look its best, while hiding nothing. These are pictures made with an open heart and a mindful gaze. They are records of feelings made by reflexive response to what is seen. They are meant to transmit the feeling of place, of being there in the moment, present and eternal. Though this work is temporally anchored to the time of the artist’s residence between 2015 and 2017, careful examinations of the city’s layers of architectural forms and socioeconomic markers provides a broader context–a suggestion of how what is seen now came to be. Providence, like other post-industrial New England cities, struggles with almost 30% of its citizens living below the poverty threshold. Despite its moniker as the “City of Hope," widespread economic and racial disparity and the effects of post-industrial collapse continue to affect the long-term citizens of the city. What Cheer? is a documentary-style look at Providence, made from situated knowledge gained from years of residence and mindful seeing, and meant to answer this most important question: How does this place wish to see itself?



Peter Nicholson grew up in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley, where he became interested in documenting its ordinary towns and landscapes. He earned a BFA in Photography from SUNY New Paltz in 2013 and a MFA in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design in 2017. Peter's place-based work plays with tropes of traditional American landscape photography, inspired by the aesthetics of the New Topographics photographers while remaining interested in social and historical specificities of towns and cities. He has produced photographic books about Poughkeepsie and Rosendale, New York; Salem, Massachusetts; and Brattleboro, Vermont. His MFA thesis examined Providence, Rhode Island.