The Long Way Home


Cityscapes in the Rain
April 30, 2014, 7:01 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , ,
morning commute

morning commute

Pittsburgh has its rain – lots of it. Supposedly on average, only 59 sunny days annually. When it’s sunny for a few days straight, Pittsburghers are suspicious, as if an unknown force planted us all in another city. We don’t know how to handle the intense light reflecting off warehouse windows, lightly toasting our faces, bleaching the pavement beneath our feet; those few days of sunshine respite teach us to enjoy the moment, the little things. When the storms return, I breathe easy, like returning home from a long vacation worlds away from what I know.

storm sky

storm sky

this is spring in the steel city

this is spring in the steel city

blue cadillac

blue cadillac

the red umbrella

the red umbrella

after the storm

after the storm

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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



Secret Doors, Open Spaces
September 12, 2013, 5:48 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , , ,
balancing act

balancing act

So here we are, September. I’m still recuperating from our trip South a few weeks ago (travelog to come in future post). The day job has been super busy, so after work, I am mentally exhausted: posting photos becomes a substitution for words.  Last week, as I walked home down Gem Way (the alley behind our house that, upon first look, is really kind of terrifying), I noticed all this beautiful ivy growing in our neighbor’s yard/parking space. So each day after work, I turned their yard into a makeshift photo studio (I hope they don’t mind). One day I dragged our heavy oak desk chair as a prop, then another, a pile of books. My audience was another neighbor’s “guard” dog, a beautiful husky mix that never once barked, but looked curiously at me as I stood on the chair, then jumped off, then settled on sitting in it after all. I want to track this place through the seasons, documenting bits of nature through cityscape.

first day

a discovery

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i spy

i spy

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door

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Time Travel: 1969-1972
August 18, 2013, 7:45 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , , , , ,
August 1972

August 1972

We cleaned out our studio this past month: 12 large trash bags and three trips to Goodwill later – we find things. Like a copy of “Nights of Arabian Dentistry” that Jeff found in a thrift store. My tiny black wallet that looks like a toddler-sized handbag. A plastic garden gnome that I did have in the trash pile, but Jeff rescued by popping off the head and keeping it. The books – I could spend hours talking about parting with the books. Once I admitted that I’d never read To Kill a Mockingbird or Wuthering Heights ever again, they went straight into the donation pile. It feels good to get rid of things, and to make solid promises to yourself that you will not accumulate like you have been for years. It made me ask why I carted around dated grammar books year after year, or keep clothes that don’t fit anymore. It made me think too about all the things that my mother held that I now own, things that were very important to her when she was alive, like books, and pretty dresses, and photos – especially the photos. “Things” don’t matter, but sometimes those things keep us happy, inquisitive, curious, and creative.  I like looking through these old friend photos that my mother took during a time in her life when she was clearly happiest. They comfort me since she is no longer here to answer my questions, or tell me her stories.

1972

1972

Erica, 1971

Erica, 1971

my godmother, 1971

my godmother, 1971

Lynn, 1969

Lynn, 1969

Virginia Beach, 1972

Virginia Beach, 1972

amazing beehive, 1971

amazing beehive, 1971

 

 

 

 

 

 



Late Summer
August 11, 2013, 8:53 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,

 

Pittsburgh on a hot July evening

Pittsburgh on a hot July evening

I don’t want to be one of those people who boasts how “busy” they are just to make themselves sound important. We’re all busy, but my busy-ness, I realize lately, is a self-imposed one, a way for me to push off feeling what I need to wade through: this business of grief. It’s year three, I’m starting to feel “normal” again, and this in itself is confusing. I’ll get to that in another post, but I’ve taken on too much, thinking I can do it all, when I just need to learn to feel the moment, right? Our goal for 2013 was “Get Shit Organized,” and so far, it’s working: a savings plan in place, paying down debt, cleaning up the studio (which has taken over a month. As you can imagine, we had a lot of things to clear out of there to make it workable again). There are setbacks, but hey, I roll with the punches – albeit with loads of anxiety, which makes some days a little precarious to balance. Things that have given me a push: photography, of course. And reading old Nancy Drew books. Oh, and indulging in all seven seasons of Tales from the Crypt, which Jeff hates because he thinks the crypt keeper is really lame. Friends who know me better than anyone. Knowing that when it all comes down to it, it’ll all work out.

standing in the space of "nowhere house"

standing in the space of “nowhere house”

we parked and found this

pittsburgh chair 

my first full-length photo shoot in our rearranged studio

a photo shoot in our rearranged studio

experimenting with available light

experimenting with available light

found graffiti on s. windebiddle

found graffiti on s. windebiddle

one last shot in the spectra. i ran out of the house to capture it.

one last shot in the spectra. i ran out of the house to capture it.



Polaroid Week: Days 3 & 4
July 18, 2013, 9:22 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,
north winebiddle street - day 3

north winebiddle street – day 3

Sometimes projects sneak up on you when you aren’t even thinking about it: stories emerge. I feel as if I’m becoming closer to Pittsburgh, as if I’m getting reacquainted with an old friend. It’s when I find these secret city streets: a missing house, and wide open space – that my heart soars. It reaffirms how much I love this part of my life, my home.

from camp ohio - day 3

from camp ohio – day 3

mt. washington: where a house once stood - day 4

mt. washington: where a house once stood – day 4

nowhere house - day 4

nowhere house – day 4



City of Bridges
June 2, 2013, 4:03 PM
Filed under: Library | Tags: , , , , ,
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This summer, I thought I’d switch it up a bit  and feature a collaboration project each month: my friend Mike’s fiction paired with my photographs – or we may get tricky and he’ll send me a fiction piece and I’ll take photographs interpreting the text. This is the first in the series and I’m excited to see what we come up with these next few months.

City of Bridges

She brought a book when she came to a new city as a filter between herself and people who might want to know her.  These outings were one-day affairs.  She’d take a bus to the downtown and scour maps at the station, searching for the tallest points within walking distance.  She never asked for directions.  Her feet grew tired searching for elevation.  She loved hilltops and bridges.  Places the breeze whipped her red hair and licked at her neck, the way he had that summer and didn’t any longer.

She would stand on the bridge and imagine the photographs she could take, the angles and exposures.  Sometimes she waited for sunset.  Waiting.  Listening to the sounds of traffic or birds and anticipating the wash of colors that would douse this temporary city.  She never brought a camera, just the book, and she would use its pages on the hottest days to shield her face from the sun.

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That summer they’d gone swimming in the public pool near his apartment.  They spread faded beach towels on the damp concrete, two strips of fabric forming one.  She could feel his hip press into hers when he flipped onto his stomach.  She wore large-rimmed sunglasses.  He talked about chemistry and honey bees.  She watched as he carefully descended the metal latter and slipped underwater—out of sight—a preview of things to come.

The bridge she was standing on now was quiet.  There wasn’t much of a breeze.  She could still smell the chlorine of that swimming pool, feel the weight of her swimsuit after she’d soaked it in the bathroom sink, rinsing chemicals from the cloth the way she’d rinsed them from her hair the way he’d rinsed her from his life.

She turned away from the city and leaned her back against the metal railing, looking into the two-lane street in front of her.  There were railroad tracks on the other side of the bridge and she imagined a longer journey, one that would take weeks or months or longer.  She imagined sleeping in her seat on the train and waking in Paris or Istanbul or Sarajevo, clutching a book she would read in a nearby park a few blocks from the train station.

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Michael Bunn teaches writing, media and pop culture at the University of Southern California. He is also the scarecrow who married Jeff and me at our Halloween wedding. 




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