The Long Way Home


E. 9th Avenue
May 22, 2013, 7:53 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,
e. 11th avenue

this is a house we found on e. 11th avenue

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.

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st. michael's, e. 9th avenue

st. michael’s, e. 9th avenue

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Anonymous
March 25, 2012, 10:38 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , ,

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Why do you hide your face in your portraits? This is something people have asked me a lot lately, something that is hard for me to answer, but I’ll work out the demons here (And while women may think it, it’s only men who have asked it).

They make for more interesting stories. When I began doing photography, the photos from other artists that I found most interesting were un-obvious portraits, where a person is not looking directly into the camera. It made me want to explore all the ways photos tell stories. My photos have to have movement and place, and I like working with the constraints of still image. Acknowledgement of the camera by the subject is taking away the mystery of the photograph, and I want that mystery.

It lends some privacy in social media. When I began posting self-portraits to the Internet, I chose ones where people couldn’t see my face for physical and emotional safety. I have many self-portraits where I’m showing my face,  but those rarely make it to the Web – a gift of solitude for myself in an age of too much information.

I’m not getting any younger. I marvel and freak out over getting older.  I want to be one of those women who embrace their wrinkles, grays and all,  but I’m a little terrified – even more so now that my mother didn’t make it to 60. I am self-conscious about the dark circles under my eyes from insomnia and allergies, something I inherited from my mother. Along with her vanity, perhaps? All reminders not so much of beauty fading, but my mortality.

The irony is that hiding my face in self-portraits started as a way to make me feel less self-conscious and now I am more self-conscious for not revealing it. I’m taking this as an opportunity to re-examine my work and see other worlds I can explore.

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Portrait Stories
November 10, 2011, 7:27 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , , ,

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When Jeff and I go trash hunting, we automatically split off – he retreats to the basement for bargains or shop tools, and I sit on the floor among stacks of books, thumbing through old cookbooks, or, with a box of photographs in my lap, hoping to find that one creepy picture that the seller dismissed as junk. Some people think it’s weird that we own so many photos of people we don’t know,  but for me, the mystery is part of why I love them. I wonder about the history of the people in these portraits, and in organizing them to fit a theme, I’m reminded that my obsessions with collecting are in the details – a wild-eyed face-off with the camera, a delicate, swollen cheek or the faded writing on the back of a card, telling me her name.

margaret coleman

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Down a Dark Hallway
August 28, 2011, 12:05 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery, West Virginia | Tags: , , ,

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These photos are the last in the asylum series; I don’t want to leave them. I mentioned in earlier posts about the light and space and how I loved it – and how much the history of this place affected me. It helped me to connect to something outside of my grief, which has changed me. Would I have experienced the mystery of these hallways in the same way had my mother not died this past January? Everything is different now that she’s gone. I feel things more deeply. I resonate with indescribable sadness, and when I’m happy, I am so filled with joy  I can hardly hold it in my arms.

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