Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: braddock, grief, instant film, pittsburgh, rust belt, slopes
It’s three years since my mother passed away, and I feel more myself than I have in the longest time. I’m more alert, in-tune with my surroundings. I laugh without guilt, and take pleasure in ordinary things. My heart isn’t broken. Scarred, yes, but I carry that small sadness around with me, a reminder that she’s always with me. Now when I hear of someone losing a loved one, it holds different weight for me. I know the complicated, heart-wrenching road they are about to travel, and yet, I still don’t know how to act, or what to say except I’m sorry. I know that death makes most people uncomfortable, that nobody wants to talk about it. I know too that it’s given me a great deal of anxiety, which only recently I feel as if I’ve got under control. Some people have been very supportive, and others have said clueless, insensitive things; I’ve learned to forgive them. I asked one of my closest friends if I’ve changed since this happened; he said that I’ve deepened my connection to photography. I had to think about why that is. It’s more than just taking pretty pictures – it’s been a comfort, a way for me to make sense of who I am as a motherless woman, as an artist. As cliché as this sounds, photography makes me feel more complete. I see through my mother’s curious, creative eye when I pour through old photos she had taken. My photo adventures continue those stories, a way for us to carry on in conversation.
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: blogiversary, garfield pittsburgh, impossible project, polaroid, spectra, westinghouse castle
March marks five years of blogging on The Long Way Home! I started this blog as a way to make myself write weekly about food and travel which is what I write mostly about in my freelance life. But somewhere along the way, it took another turn: photography became so important to me that the blog evolved into a personal online art journal. I think of each post as illustrated chapters, and it’s been years since I’ve kept a written journal (although I still keep my photo notes journal – I just started another one. Nothing like a fresh new paper-and-ink journal to get the creativity going). Five years also marks my joining Flickr and Utata, an online arts group of photographers who opened worlds for me: their support, creativity and kindness over the years has really helped me to develop my photographic eye, and be brave enough to share that eye in public. Blogging, more than anything, has connected me with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise because of distance. (I’m hugging the ‘net through the screen now). Thank you to my blog readers and friends with whom I’ve made creative connections with over the years – it makes me happy and keeps me adventuring.
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: 1900s, hidden mother photography, victorian
A few years ago, “hidden mother” photography buzzed about the ‘net – surreal, creepy photos of Victorian mothers with blankets thrown over their heads while their children sat around them, posing for pictures. I loved these eerie photos, but I wondered: Weren’t children terrified sitting on the lap of a dark specter? The photographer in me fretted over composition: Why leave the obviously hidden person in the photo, when all it did was call attention to the person who wished to stay hidden? Linda Fregni Nagler’s The Hidden Mother (MACK) addresses some of these questions in a series of over 1,000 “hidden mother” images. She explains that in the early days of photography, when long exposure times demanded people’s patience, the subject had to keep still. It was difficult to get children to do this for solo portraits, especially for a stranger, so mothers would drape themselves in heavy cloth to keep the focus on the child. In the early days of photography, composition was less important than keeping a visual record of a person, especially in a time with high infant mortality rates. These photos could have been the first image of a person’s life, or their last and only one. In studying the images, I discovered other types of “hidden mother” (and father) photos, ones that show a disembodied arm reaching out to hold a baby, or the top of a woman’s head as she crouches behind a chair. I bought the first hidden mother photo (below) thinking it was an interesting photographer’s mistake, but now I’m more curious about the faceless woman skirting the edges of the frame.
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: 600 color instant film, impossible project, mon valley, rust belt, westinghouse castle
You wouldn’t know it judging by no coat and full sun, but I took this batch of photos in February, on a day that teased us with spring. It was windy, but so sunny it blew out most of the shots. We drove around looking for junk, only to discover some places closed, forever – the effects of post-recession life in western Pennsylvania, or simply, nobody wants to drive miles out of their way, to tiny forgotten towns to search the unwanted. For awhile though, I’ve wanted to take photos at Westinghouse Castle, and since we were close, we stopped there. I found it years before by accident: going to a cousin’s baby shower, I had taken a wrong turn and pulled along a massive stone building with a giant clock tower. I wondered about the royal industrial family that once lived there and discovered it is actually the Westinghouse office building, dubbed “the Castle” for that giant clock tower that still keeps time. It was a museum, then closed (when the recession kicked in), and now it’s again an office building. The pavement surrounding the building was threaded with cracks, and small patches of snow glistened in late-daylight. I thought about how most of my generation has lived through one recession or another, how I have to find the beauty in what is ordinary – how eerily quiet it was as I looked up at a window, the curtain pulled back as if someone had just been there, watching.
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: canadian-american, j & k, january wedding, winter
Each time I go to complain about the cold, I think back to last month on January 4, when these two lovely kids exchanged vows on the Clemente Bridge at 9 in the morning. Jeff was my assistant, and the two of us layered up to brave the cold, clear day – nine degrees and just as we parked the car to walk over the bridge, Kendra and James emerged from the parking garage, holding hands, and as she lifted the hem of her gown to cross the street, revealing blue velvet shoes, I started to tear up. James is an old friend from high school whom I haven’t seen in over 20 years, so yeah, I got a little sappy, and felt honored that they asked me to capture the quiet moments in their big day.