The Long Way Home


Journey’s End
April 20, 2015, 6:48 AM
Filed under: Florida | Tags: , , , ,
Cross Creek, Florida

Cross Creek, Florida

Today starts Polaroid Week and I thought I’d share photos from our recent Florida road trip: two per day for the next five days. I took these two along US 301, the Mother Road of the South. This was the first time in our history of traveling there that our GPS went wonky; we drove in seeming circles, our navigation system winding us off highways through the beaten tracks. Lightening shot through the skies, illuminating the rolling green land where horses grazed under canopies of Spanish moss. There was that fresh-cut grass smell permeating the car as I rolled down the windows, and a sound I haven’t heard since summer: the hum of crickets.

US 301, Ocala.

US 301, Ocala.

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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



City That Never Sleeps
November 16, 2014, 8:12 AM
Filed under: New York | Tags: , , ,
View from Ellis

View from Ellis

I traveled to New York last month with my friend Becky, whom I’ve known for over 20 years. Her sister Angie and brother-in-law Mark were gracious to open their home, and their world to us, 41 floors above this magical city – because even years later, after life’s twists and turns and travels  – New York still has a soft spot in my heart for magical things to happen. Our main agenda for the trip was Ellis Island – Becky wanted to look up her family roots – and so I aimed to take postcard shots since Ellis was the most touristy thing I’ve done on a trip in a long time. It was a beautiful fall day, so we walked, everywhere: through Times Squares on our first evening; from Battery Park all the way back to Midtown the next – each neighborhood we slipped into and out, I felt it become smaller, more intimate. We ate at Casa Bella in Little Italy, took a detour through Chinatown. I loved seeing two women sitting in a park, gently pushing their children in their strollers, trading stories in the early dark; how traffic glowed, and apartment lights clicked on, twinkling.  I thought about years ago, I had to decide between Sarah Lawrence for grad school or stay home and go to Pitt: I was very young then, too scared to move far. I wanted to travel, and didn’t know if I could both afford living in New York and taking off; I chose home to see the world. It was the first time in my life that I experienced that proverbial fork in the road, and each time I go back to the city, there is a tiny “what if” that tugs in the back of my mind. It isn’t one of regret so much as curiosity of how we end up the places that we do: I hadn’t even thought of picking up a camera then, and now I can’t imagine life without pressing the shutter. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting my Flickr friend, Yvette, who grew up in and around the New York area. I was nervous, but excited, wondering what she would be like in person after following her photography for years and exchanging emails. Even though it’s more common to have online friends now, it’s still such a strange thing, isn’t it? And amazing, when you think about it, that we have this Internet thing now to connect us. Once she walked up to me and said hello that Sunday morning on the corner of W. 38, I relaxed. You’re real! I joked, happy. We walked: to Union Square for brunch, then to the International Center of Photography, to bond over what connected us, sharing stories about our lives along the way.

From the rooftop.

Saturday, Sunday.

Saturday, Sunday.

City that never sleeps.

Postcards from New York.

Letting go.

Letting go.



Trial and Error
June 27, 2014, 7:02 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,
The Ghost on E. 9th Ave. Polaroid Spectra Softtone film, expired 2009,

The Ghost on E. 9th Ave. Polaroid Spectra Softtone film, expired 2009.

One reason I love instant film is its unpredictability, and over time, I’ve learned to embrace the mistakes. I keep all the bunk shots and make notes of what went wrong that day, marking temperature, lighting conditions – did I set the darken/light wheel correctly, is the film just too far gone to salvage? Sometimes I waste an entire pack, and get pissed off and sulky for an hour or so after a shoot, trying not to think about the monetary cost of each error (when shooting instant film, you really have to block out that part of your brain, or you won’t keep shooting). Then I buck up and let go, or make plans to shoot again if I really feel attached to the first composition. Shooting instant film has taught me patience, and it’s safe to say that once you’re hooked, getting that “one shot” (sometimes, quite literally) becomes something of an obsession.

In the shot above, taken last summer, I tried three times in one pack to capture Jeff walking in front of my old house on E. 9th Avenue in Homestead. Other Homestead shots turned out decently, but it were as if the house possessed my camera. I gave up, but still love the way the divots cut so perfectly through the house, touching the top of Jeff’s head.

The diptych below shows two shots with similar composition captured two weeks apart, the left frame on an unusually warm, sunny April day. I was pretty heartbroken when I saw how this one turned out – the entire pack of film that day was a complete bust. I re-staged the one on the right in early morning, on a cooler day.

These were taken two weeks apart.

Taken two weeks part in Braddock, PA

The two images below were taken a day apart on lunch-break walks. My friend Kat was kind enough to model for me twice.

The on on the left was taken on a sunny day. The next day, I reshot this in overcast light.

l. taken on a sunny day. r. re-shot in overcast light.

This last frame was in the same pack as the first diptych picture. By this point it was the end of the day, I was crabby, but determined to figure out what went wrong with all those other shots and finally: a story emerged.

Sunset in Garfield - sometimes it takes an entire pack of film to get that one shot.

Sunset in Garfield – sometimes it takes an entire pack of film to get one good shot.



Salvage
A house in the Strip District that I pass on my daily work commute.

Row houses in the Strip District that I pass on my daily work commute.

Photography is magic: I love how one shot can make an ordinary scene look spooky, or unusual, putting it to the forefront of people’s minds. Like the house in the above shot: I pass it every day on my way to work, thinking each time: I have to stop and take a photo, and one rainy April morning I did. It’s actually the back of three row houses, with an empty lot in front of it, most likely the previous site of another building. It intrigued me because the Strip District in Pittsburgh is primarily a neighborhood stacked with warehouses; I imagine these row houses were once occupied by people who worked in one of those businesses – now occupied by who knows? This was my first shot in the film pack, and I got excited, taking it as a kiss of luck, but the shots that followed turned out completely blank, and I was pissed, thinking of the plans I had for this film, and how sometimes, I am a messy, careless photographer – I get too far ahead of myself. I transferred the pack to my SLR680, and let the camera sit for a few weeks, knowing at some point I had to use yup the film. And after a long week at my day job – a hot, muggy, anxiety-ridden day where I wasn’t feeling too creative – I used some old standbys to pull me through.

Test shot, hand-held.

Test shot, hand-held.

Out of focus: An old mirror that Jeff found in the trash with an old bed sheet for a backdrop.

Out of focus: An old mirror that Jeff found in the trash with an old bed sheet for a backdrop.

Close-up in mirror: Note my knee to the right in the background.

Close-up in mirror: Elbows resting on floor serves as tripod – resourcefulness.



Perspective
April 21, 2014, 4:48 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,
Train Trestle, South Side Slopes

Train Trestle, South Side 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.

Crossing, South Side Slopes

Crossing, South Side Slopes

Steel City Pawn, Braddock

Steel City Pawn, Braddock

From the Rooftops, South Side Slopes

From the Rooftops, South Side Slopes

Perspective, Braddock

Perspective, Braddock

Hotel Puhala, Braddock

Hotel Puhala, Braddock

View of St. Michael's, South Side Slopes

View of St. Michael’s, South Side Slopes

Overlook, South Side Slopes

Overlook, South Side Slopes



Bellevue: A Study in Light
October 28, 2013, 7:18 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , , , ,
evening in Bellevue.

Evening in Bellevue.

Bellevue is a small town off Route 65 along the Ohio River, across from Neville Island. It’s most famous around the area for its “Live, Worship, Shop” sign and for being one of the few dry towns. It’s like most river towns in Western Pennsylvania: crumbling brick roads winding up steep hills with clusters of large, early 19th-century homes, some a little bruised from the wear, but perfect for people like Jeff and me who don’t mind. When I was in junior high, I wrote an essay on three things I wanted to carry out in life which I found recently among my mother’s papers: 1. To travel to Hungary (check). 2. To write a book of short stories (half-check) and 3. To live in a giant, old house. Any time Jeff and I pass a late-Victorian with a rambling porch, we argue over who gets to set up their cave in the tower. Now I want a place of our own with empty, clean space flooded in light.

this is jody

This is Jody.

indian summer

indian summer

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