The Long Way Home


While the City Sleeps
June 30, 2015, 10:16 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , ,
A view from the Southside Cemetery (outtake).

A view from the Southside Cemetery (outtake)

I’ve had this dream of taking photos before the city wakes, and this month’s 12×12 photo challenge gave me that opportunity: Take what you believe will be the final series of photographs before you die (Nick Brandt). I admit, the topic kind of scared the shit out of me, despite my fascination with death culture, and anything dark, strange, creepy, or curiously morbid. Taking the photos felt like jinxing myself, as if I’d summon our inevitable fate a littler sooner than anticipated. Also, it ups the ante to make the “last” photos really, really good photos. It made me want to go big, do something wild and out of the ordinary, which is most likely the point: I should do something different (no self-portraits!).

Gem Way

Gem Way

Instead of thinking about the photos, I thought about all the things I put off doing and finally decided to do. I came across notes I had written in my journal – lists, really, of places around the city where I’ve meant to take pictures. And on a cold, gloomy (then later, sunny) Sunday morning (in short: unpredictable), Polaroid Spectra in hand, Jeff and I drove to each point so I could capture those tiny corners of Pittsburgh. We went downtown to Liberty Avenue because all the times I sat waiting for him to get off work, I’d stare at the expanse of buildings on Liberty and think how they were so faded and crumbling and lovely, like a painting, that I had to get them on instant film; or on the Southside Slopes, a house I’ve seen hanging on the edge of S. 18th Street being swallowed by ivy, and I marveled over its survival through decades.

Pearl St. altar, Bloomfield

Pearl St. altar, Bloomfield

These aren’t statement photos, or conceptual, or typically Pittsburgh or anything different from what I’ve done before, but rather, a bookend to what I have done for years: sending love letters to my city – a dark, strange, and (sometimes) curiously morbid little town that defines me in ways that I find hard to put into words.

Liberty Ave., 9 AM

Liberty Ave., 9 AM

Ivy house on S. 18th, Southside Slopes

Ivy house on S. 18th, Southside Slopes

City garden, Southside Slopes

City garden, Southside Slopes (outtake)

Gem Way, Garfield

Gem Way, Garfield (outtake)



Homestead/Smokestack

 

From Homestead/Smokestack. Text, image and sound collaboration with Jeff.

From Homestead/Smokestack

In summer of 2013, Jeff and I collaborated on a project documenting cities through text, image, and sound. I knew right away I wanted to photograph Homestead, the town right outside city limits, where my young parents chose to start their lives together in the early 70s. I have vague memories of the house on E. 9th: what little I remember is fueled by my mother’s stories and a box of photographs. I used expired Polaroid film to show the types of found family photos in my collection. I shot one set and they didn’t turn out as planned, then went back a few months later to reshoot, happier with the last images. That August day was oppressively hot, and as we lurked through alleyways, batting away tiny gnats that flew into my camera lens, I found it comforting and strange how much everything looked the same. In between photo visits, I spent weeks writing a 750-word essay paragraph by paragraph. It is about my parents and what they gave to me, and what I have left: fragments of personal history. Throughout that summer, Jeff spent time in the studio, rearranging photos on the floor while playing the guitar. He recorded what he heard walking Homestead streets. He wrote down the sounds that he loved, then attempted to recreate them at home through samples and make-shift instruments. He asked me questions about what the inside of my first home looked like then and imagined what it looked like today. He listened.

(Text, images and sound: Contraphonic Sound Series.)

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Snowbound
February 23, 2015, 6:32 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , ,
January: Gem Way

January: Gem Way

The world stops when it snows, and with it, I nest. I have felt low, trying to figure out where my art is going and what, in general, to do next. And I recently received heartbreaking news about a dear old friend, which I’m trying to process. I’m being vague, but it’s something I don’t want to go into detail right now (to protect her privacy as well as my heart). In short: I’ve been in hiding.

Gem Way to Penn Avenue

Gem Way to Penn Avenue

I remind myself that it’s okay to take these small breaks from life and tune out for a while. One of my biggest dreams is for one solid week of peace without distraction. It’s funny how years ago, I wanted bigger and bigger things, and as I grow older, my desires become much less complicated.

snow days

snow days

We’re in the thick of a deep-freeze which has made it difficult and uninspiring to go on long adventures, so instead, I wake early and bundle up, tucking my pajamas into boots, and trek out back through Gem Way, circling around to Penn. Morning snow crunches underfoot, the occasional car drives past, reminding me I’m still in the city. It feels as if I’m the only one awake on this well-traveled road, snow falling, camera clicking. I realize I don’t have to go far to get what I want.

fences

fences

wonderland

wonderland

when the world stops

when the world stops



Winter’s Edge
December 19, 2014, 6:18 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , ,
Abandoned houses in East Liberty. l. by me r. by Jeff

Abandoned houses in East Liberty. l. by me r. by Jeff

For the past nine years we’ve been together, Jeff and I make the ordinary an adventure. A trip to Home Depot becomes a photo opp across from the parking lot; a stroll down the Big Lots “international foods” aisle provides us a basket full of spongy, coconut-flecked cakes from Spain. Driving home from work, we’ll take a left turn instead of a right one, just to see if there is something different along a route that we’ve taken hundreds of times before, and there usually is: as early darkness softens the turns of season, we get ready for the first real snow. Colder days, thick black nights – we fill them with old movies, warm simmering stews, and plans for the coming new year. We are full of light.

East Liberty: A tree in an empty lot across from Home Depot.

East Liberty: A tree in an empty lot across from Home Depot.

l. Point Breeze c. Garfield r. Bellevue

l. Point Breeze c. Garfield r. Bellevue

Found while walking: Strip District, Friendship, Garfield.

Found while walking: Strip District, Friendship, Garfield.

l. Old farmhouse, Neville Island r. Diamond District, Downtown

l. Old farmhouse, Neville Island r. Diamond District, Downtown

l. L r. J

l. L r. J



Lost City
Braddock

Braddock

This is the lost city, the places where I go when time or funds prevents us from traveling. We’ll be on the way to get groceries, or more art supplies or something to eat and always, camera in tow, for when there is something along the way: a great escape. I’ve rested a little on the blogging, focusing more on the photography and on just “being.” It is nice to feel caught-up, mostly, after a long, cold winter, and years of anxiety and grief. I am making up for stalled time.

Cityscape

Cityscape

Phone Check

Phone Check

Reflection

Reflection

Line and Lines

Line and Lines

White House in Blue

White House in Blue

Lost City

Lost City

 



The Devil is in the Details
May 23, 2014, 7:02 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,
Untitled, Day Three

Untitled, Day Three

Days three and five: I took these while it was getting windy, and  threatening rain, so to speed things up, I moved to the back of the building (less traffic, fewer people wondering what the hell we were doing: me setting up tripod and camera, while Jeff ran around taking iPhone pictures). The sweetest discovery was that giant blue door. We imagined horse-drawn wagons carting oil lamps out of the building, and through the cobblestone streets. And I love that ghost sign our friends Sheryl and Rebby showed us on the way to dinner one night: you can just make out a devil, his impish grin directing you straight to the company office – such a gorgeous piece of Pittsburgh history, it’s one of my favorites.

Blue Door, Day Three

Blue Door, Day Three

The Devil is in the Details: Ghost sign, Day Five

The Devil is in the Details: Ghost sign, Day Five

Garden Gate, Day Five

Garden Gate, Day Five



Kat in the Rain and Other Stories
May 21, 2014, 8:28 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,
Buttercup Way, Day One

Buttercup Way, Day One

It’s Polaroid Week and the instant film community is abuzz with analog excitement. This year I had a few photos saved to share, but Saturday Jeff and I took a drive across the Allegheny and to the North Side of Pittsburgh, in the Manchester neighborhood, so I could capture some stories around the Hipwell Manufacturing Company. Hipwell, makers of oil lamp parts and Hipco flashlights, opened their doors in 1887, and operated until 2001. It now houses some offices and most recently as Chloe Sevigny’s apartment building  in the now-defunct series “Those Who Kill.” Day two photos were taken in Braddock, on an eerily quiet, cool Sunday morning in April and last week, my friend Katlin and I ducked out of work for a walk in the rain – me, balancing an umbrella between shoulder and chin to shield the camera, and Kat, fearless in the downpour, laughing.

 

Hipwell Manufacturing Co., Day One

Hipwell Manufacturing Co., Day One

Hotel Puhala, Day 2

Hotel Puhala, Day Two

Kat in the Rain, Day Two

Kat in the Rain, Day Two




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