The Long Way Home


Gem Way and Other Stories
perspective

perspective

Garfield, Pittsburgh: The longest I’ve ever lived in one place. When I was a kid, we’d bounce from apartment to apartment so often it became spring routine to start looking through the classified ads for another place. The trick was to not get too attached. I made do with small spaces. What accumulated over a year was easily let go for convenience sake. Moving taught me how to let go. When I moved in with Jeff nine years ago, I remember loving this strange storefront-turned-living space, but the street behind it, Gem Way, was a total wreck. There was the abandoned building next door to us that attracted drug addicts and urban explorers, and the building next to it that caught fire, sending black plumes of smoke through the neighborhood. A lawyer rented out the garage beyond that to local bands, so there was the occasional loud dance party keeping me awake on work nights. I’ve documented Gem Way over the years, and have come to love its strange vegetation poking through the fences, its ivy-covered houses and broken pavement. The family of groundhogs nesting under our porch, and feral cats wailing at the moon. Its graffiti-covered brick the only shots of color on a gray Pittsburgh morning.

snow garden

snow garden

convenience

convenience

gem way

gem way

spak brothers: home of the best seitan melts

spak brothers: home of the best seitan melts

time travel

time travel

north millvale ave. from gem way

north millvale ave. from gem way

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Evening on Penn
August 5, 2014, 7:18 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , ,
come along with me

come along with me

When Jeff and I aren’t on the road, we travel our neighborhood, making ordinary trips to the grocery store an adventure. Last week, I took my Spectra with me on our walk to Bottom Dollar (Klondike craving), figuring I’d finally get to capture some things  that caught my attention on earlier car rides to work – times where I’m thinking, I’ll go back to that later – and it’s changed. We pass two houses on Gem Way that I filmed this past winter, now a lush, urban garden of tall grass and Queen Anne’s Lace. The row houses across the street, looming brick structures on broken Penn Avenue, a door still covered in old newspapers from, I swear, as long as we’ve lived here – seven years. All the moving around I did as a child, then a college student, then as a young adult trying to find my way, and now I’ve arrived: middle-aged, Spectra in hand, with my best friend beside me peeling silver wrapping from a frozen treat: this is home.

 

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the garden

the garden



Five Years
shadows and light

shadows and light

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.

regent square

regent square

garfield: home

garfield: home

shadows and light

shadows and light

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B&W Diary
November 20, 2013, 6:05 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,
Route 19: Dairy Queen, Lawrence County

Route 19: Dairy Queen, Lawrence County

I had this black and white instant film in the fridge for the longest time and I didn’t want to mess with it because it’s finicky: it needs to be immediately shielded from light, which requires me putting on the timer, then ejecting it into a black bag (something I came up with to protect the film). But my wish to shoot in black and white won over laziness and this is what I captured: one random shot from an abandoned Dairy Queen that we found a few weeks ago, and the series below, which I thought about shooting while I was getting my hair cut this past Saturday morning. The DQ piqued our interest because we thought it was a junk shop, but realized it had been forgotten for years: cracked windows lined in broken bottles and mummified birds pressed against glass. I loved though how the sunlight created hard shadows of the weeds against the cinderblock, and the film grain made them look so delicate. Weeks later, and I’m sitting in the hairdressing chair flipping through BUST, thinking about self-portraits, the geometry of the human form, shadows and light  – all that beautiful Saturday light that we haven’t seen much of for the past few days, and I knew I had to take advantage of it. These are an imperfect batch – soft focus, grainy, contrasty  – and they make me miss those long hours I used to spend in the darkroom, lost, but comforted in the red light.

voila

voila

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We’re On TV
September 30, 2012, 8:30 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,

the former building in this lot had caught on fire and was demolished. 

It’s funny how a place finds you. The longest I’ve lived anywhere is the place we live in now: former candy store/grocery store/children’s clothing store/bookstore in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In the past, I’d carefully chosen the places I wanted to live, but then I fell in love with a sweet, strange man who told me he lived in an old store and I didn’t imagine that I’d be there (here) so long that I can’t imagine living in a ‘normal’ house. The area around our building has proven a good place for impromptu photo shoots, found objects for Jeff’s art projects, even providing us furniture for our cozy nest (the desk chair I’m sitting as I type this; a kitchen hutch and a coffee table turned into a guitar). We have half a mannequin from someone’s trash, and our neighbor left a long strip of bowling alley for Jeff to transform into something else. A few weeks ago someone left an old TV in our yard, complete with remote control. Nobody took it home , but the remote was gone the next morning.

the retaining wall in our backyard, site of many photo shoots

doors in friendship

you can’t even give these away now

self-portrait after work

i see this car every day walking home from work

something like dancing




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