Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: homestead, mystery, polaroid, river town, rust belt, spectra
The first place I lived was on E. 9th Avenue in Homestead. My father worked at US Steel, a few blocks away, and my mother worked the front desk at the downtown Hilton. The mill is now closed – replaced by mall development – and so is the Hilton, a ghostly structure overlooking the Point where three rivers meet. The house though is still there, and it’s for sale; on Sunday, Jeff and I stood in front of it, imagining what it would be like to live there. I remember the dark, wooden bannister leading up to the third floor apartment where my aunt Linda lived; the fireplace in the front room where a Pepsi bottle exploded, shattering glass over my hair (this memory, my mother told me enough times it feels like mine). There were blue beaded curtains in my bedroom instead of a door. When Jeff asked me what it looks like inside, I tried to explain how the rooms were all cast in blue – that same blue that seems to cover all of Western Pennsylvania on most days: cloudy, chance of rain, a part of my historical landscape.
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: 31st bridge, polaroid, pz680, spectra, strip district
Sometimes there isn’t a plan: you get in the car, pick a direction and go. We choose west along Route 65, the Ohio River. Past Coraopolis (my hometown), and more company river towns that I’ve never lived in, yet feel as if I know. A derelict American Bridge Company building that I always think about sneaking into and exploring when we pass it, a four-story bowling alley. Green bridges dot the landscape. We stop at Sheetz to scarf down mac and cheese bites and Red-Hot chips, knowing we may regret it later. We continue driving to a Beaver Falls junk store and get lucky, finding a book on hypnotism. I know this route well because we’ve traveled it so many times, but each time I try to see it differently, vowing to take the pictures that I’ve only imagined, but have yet to do. It’s only when we get closer to home, my camera still full of film, that I make Jeff stop under the 31st St. Bridge. The shadows are so strong from the setting sun; I can’t resist the urge to jump out of the car and capture the light before it disappears over the horizon.
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: books, keys, natural light, old letters, robots, studio space
My “studio” is a narrow strip of space in front of Jeff’s workshop. Separated by a retractable wall, one can find me shooting my photo-a-day projects on one side, while Jeff is sanding/sawing away on the other. My equipment: a camera, an object and natural light; it isn’t fancy. I styled the photos in our store-front windows, or right on the floor in front of the glass door. The roughly finished pine makes a great backdrop. It’s such a tiny angle though that I often have to curl up on my knees, balancing on elbows to steady camera (or just set it eye-level on the floor with the objects) to get certain shots (see: “toy army”). Which is how it got its “magic window” moniker via Sarah: that intense afternoon light cutting through the large front windows gives ordinary house tchotchkes lives of their own.
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: 1900s, pre-WWII, vintage communion photos
I consider myself culturally Catholic: baptized, never confirmed, but raised by a Catholic mother who left the church when she and my father divorced. In short: not Catholic at all. It always felt as if my mother tried to find the right spiritual fit for us, church-hopping until she found the Episcopalians: They’re like the Catholics, but without all the rigmarole. But in the toughest times of her life, she’d still seek guidance from a priest, or blessings from nuns. I found tiny holy water bottles tucked in dresser drawers when she died. Saint Theresa prayer cards fluttered from books, rosaries tangled in boxes. Recently Jeff and I were talking with a neighbor who asked why I had so many saint statues. It’s difficult to explain unless you grew up here in Pittsburgh, where the Virgin Mary is just part of the decor; you plant a garden, and then you gotta get a Mary for the living room window too. Its kitschy, it’s comforting. It’s a mysterious part of who I am, a world in which I was initiated at birth, but never fully integrated.
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: band, impossible project, north side, pittsburgh, polaroid
How I spent Saturday: Watching crime shows, taking a long nap, and then waking to do a band photo shoot in the North Side. Along the way we saw a fist fight on the corner of 40th and Butler streets, talked about the weather and I took mental note of all the places along the way for future photo stories (under a rail bridge, an empty storefront in Lawrenceville, an empty row of houses along Penn – must write the rest of these later before I forget). I always get a little nervous before doing a photo shoot with other people, but these boys were so easy and fun to work with that I forgot pretty quickly I was nervous at all. facebook.com/upholsterers