Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: coraopolis, impossible project, instant film, polaroid week 2015, roots
This is the place where I’d bike along the tree-lined street to escape our stifling hot apartment. This is the place where Sherry’s Drugs sold fountain malts, where I’d buy pantyhose at Nola’s to match my color guard uniform. This is the place that housed a café where my friends and I scraped together our first-job cash to order grilled cheeses. This is where I asked a hairdresser to make me look like Louise Brooks. Where I’d buy daisies for my mother, where I’d peek through the windows of revolving stores, each struggling to keep pace with a changing world. This is the place where I ate my first violet pastilles, tiny sugar-coated aniseed in a floral tin imported from France. They taste like sweet, cheap perfume, there isn’t any other way to describe it; I became hooked. They made me want to try the rose-flavored ones, then a candy flecked with hot pepper. They gave me a taste of life outside that small river town – one was never enough. This is the place where I sat on a bench planning my first train trip alone, where my life as an artist began.
Filed under: Art Gallery, Pennsylvania | Tags: east liberty, impossible project, instant film, polaroid week 2015
Pittsburgh is growing. It’s surreal to live here your entire life and watch outsiders’ faces over the years turn from disgust to wide-eyed enthusiasm – a rust-belt city darling gracing the Internet pages of social media. We have good food, pretty hilltop views, cheap real estate. We are proof that yes, you can take a pig from the mud and make it clean. And that’s always the dilemma of the growing city: happiness at improvement, confusion – anger – that with improvement, comes rising prices, communities being pushed out of their homes – becomes a place like every other place. So amidst the construction (which has happened since 1973, in what historians call the “reinvention” era), I look for traces of old Pittsburgh to make sure nobody forgets it: empty churches, lawns-turned-overgrown fields. Wooden mill homes that survived over a hundred winters.
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: impossible project, instant film, neville island, polaroid week 2015
People around the Pittsburgh region have their theories about Neville Island, the largest inhabited island in the Ohio River: it’s off-limits to outsiders, a thruway for truckers, crowded with factories – nobody really lives there. In the 80s, crossing the Coraopolis Bridge to the island, you’d be warned: Poison! Do Not Enter! (I remember a skull and crossbones painted on that sign, but maybe I watched too many cartoons as a kid.) Chemical companies treated a corner of the former farmland turned shipyard as a dumping ground. It took years, but they finally cleaned up their act. Now an ice rink inhabits the area once dubbed “poison park,” and across the street is a tropical island-themed bar complete with fake palms and sand (island – get it?). My sister lives on the Island, so Jeff and I explore it often. I tell him stories about Wind Chimes truck stop and the amazing Chinese-American neon sign that made me want to go there because I imagined it would be like stepping into 1955. All those afternoons at the Rollerdrome next door, learning to skate backwards, and playing Pac-Man in its seedy little café that hasn’t changed decor since the Carter era. Grid-patterned streets dotted with tiny cottages boasting pink flamingos and the American flag on lawns cut clean and bright.
Filed under: Florida | Tags: impossible project, instant film, polaroid week 2015, us441
Travel gives me a chance to tell stories. With a set amount of money to spend, a few items packed, a loose itinerary, I imagine that the life I’m living is the one opening before me while on the road. Time warps, days blur. Everything is a potential photograph.
Filed under: Georgia | Tags: impossible project, instant film, polaroid week 2015, tybee island
I confess: I cannot swim. Not in the real way, anyhow. I float on my back so I can look up at the sky and listen to the sea. The first time I saw an ocean was in Virginia. I was 11, and I took a raft into the water to ride the waves, only to be surrounded by jellyfish, translucent flowers swirling near my arm. Later, my sister got stung by one, her small thigh swelling up to almost twice its size. I learned the power of the water. Yet still, I have beach dreams. On Tybee, I wandered off saddled with cameras, shoes slung over my shoulder. Crashing waves, a bickering family. Broken, glistening shells. A tiny ship in the distance.
Filed under: Georgia | Tags: impossible project, instant film, polaroid week 2015, savannah, spectra
It’s 9 AM. Jeff and our friend Tim are having dude coffee talk, and I am in the backyard, rigging a tripod out of an overturned wooden table. The sun keeps slipping through the clouds. We are 11 hours from home, and while I love visiting Savannah, I long to just be in my bed, hug my cat, hide out for a few days before going back to work. Savannah, though, is good to us. The night before, we ate BBQ ribs at Johnny Harris, and then bought a dozen Krispy Kremes with $10 that Jeff found on the ground. We visited Tybee Island, and later, walked to get drinks in the rain. I got a little tipsy, and this morning, find blurry night photos on my iPhone. I wanted to capture the soft darkness, the way the lamp lights glowed across a tiny square like something out of a film. I erase them. I flip through the instant shots I have taken on this trip, brush donut crumbs off the edge of a frame.
Filed under: Florida | Tags: florida, impossible project, instant film, ocala, polaroid week 2015
It is mind-numbing and surreal, driving 16 hours from home. We take one suitcase, one bag of cameras and film, a snack-filled cooler. We make a playlist (mostly Steely Dan this time, which Jeff calls his “prescription from Dr. Wu”). We play road games, the alphabet one being a favorite (“Name a band that starts with _”). There is lots of excitement in the beginning of the drive – adventure awaits! – then time rolls on, and we’re hungry. Tired, cranky, we bicker over directions. There are breaks at scenic highway overlooks and creepy little mom-and-pops selling crushed Twinkies. State by state we shed layers of clothing to accommodate the heat. We are confused, we are lost, we laugh at the dumbest things. When we reach Ocala, I roll down the window and cup my hand to feel the outside humidity. It’s one of the few places where I’ve watched it rain on only one side of the road – dark clouds competing with the sun.