The Long Way Home


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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Roads Ahead
January 14, 2015, 6:42 AM
Filed under: Puerto Rico | Tags: , , ,
Arrival, Puerto Rico.

Arrival, Puerto Rico.

A new year, a quiet few weeks, the long winter ahead. I’ve permitted myself some time to just chill and not overextend, which means binge-watching Orphan Black, and reading A Detroit Anthology; A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Last month we had an amazing trip to Puerto Rico, which I’ll write about soon, and now I’ve got the travel bug again. It’s been awhile since we’ve escaped far away. Once we woke that Friday morning at 4 am to catch our 6 am flight – traces of snow on my shoes as I walked into the airport, eyes barely open, suitcase bumping against my leg: I ached to go everywhere in the world. My main resolution this year – goal, or whatever you want to call it – is for more solace in my life. More saying no without guilt. More letters and connecting with others, online and in every day life. More adventures closer to home. More exploring the direction my photography takes me. I began this year with two photo submission rejections, but the editor was so nice in one of them, I thanked him and he wrote back: a thoughtful gesture that eased the sting. More accepting failure with grace. Also more discovering all the crazy shit I love along the way – here I go.

San Juan, PR

San Juan, PR

 

 



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.



Lehigh Valley
October 29, 2014, 6:33 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,
Behind George's Diner, Bethlehem

Behind George’s Diner, Bethlehem

I never think of traveling our home state as “vacation,” but last month’s drive out to Bethlehem to visit friends changed my mind. As we made our way along the Lincoln Highway, the towns became slower, fewer people in sight – fields of color showing signs of fall, even though the weather was more August heat. Breezewood to Chambersburg to Dutch Country, we rolled right into the Lehigh Valley. We explored miles of treasures at Renningers Antiques, ate a delicious Spicy Antipasti sandwich at Hummus House in Allentown, talked for hours with our friends, and took a walk over the Delaware River from Easton to the Jersey side just because we could. There was that moment of twilight as we crossed the bridge: pink sky, quiet river, a slight chill, an ice cream shop at the New Jersey/PA border closed for the season. The soft, neon glow of an old sign twinkling in the distance  made my heart twist with a tinge of sadness – a good-bye to summer.

Allentown, PA

Chew Street, Allentown, PA

Hummus House, Allentown

Hummus House, Allentown

Easton, PA

Easton, PA

Easton, PA

Easton, PA

Artists' Alley, Easton

Artists’ Alley, Easton

Bethlehem morning

Bethlehem morning



Lincoln Highway
October 15, 2014, 7:10 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , ,
A remnant of Fairyland Forest, Laurel Highlands.

Little Boy Blue: A remnant of Storyland, Laurel Highlands.

When Jeff and I stared dating nine years ago, our first road trip together was Route 30, Pennsylvania’s old Lincoln Highway, destination: Mutter Museum. I mapped out the places I wanted to see along the way, but more importantly, this travelers’ road crazy-twisting through mountains provided relief from the PA Turnpike. Speeding highway travel puts my nerves on edge, and finally, I found a man who was willing to travel the roads less wandered with me (metaphor intended). A few weeks ago, driving back from a visit with friends East, we climbed intense mountain passes, and felt the isolation in those forgotten towns nestled in the hills. It was a bright, clear, sunny day, so pretty it made hearts ache. We imagined Model T-s struggling up those hills in the route’s early days, all the stops it took just get a few miles – clever roadside attractions that gave travelers some escape: hotels that looked liked ships, fairytale creatures hidden among the trees in someone’s yard, with signs made clear no trespassing.

 

Antique store in a barn near Gettysburg.

Antique store in a barn near Gettysburg.

TV in Fayetteville, PA

TV in Fayetteville, PA

Bedford, PA

Bedford, PA

Garden near the Laurel Manor motel.

Garden near the Laurel Manor motel.



In a Cold Sun
October 5, 2014, 8:57 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , ,
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It’s a chilly, quiet morning, time I’ve waited to savor all week. I have worked more overtime, catching up after a long travel weekend, and milling through the muck of interview rejection. I like to have things status quo, and everything felt off-kilter. At times, it made me forget the smallest things, left me a little catastrophic and slightly depressed. It’s a territory of which I’m familiar – depression – and so I throw myself into overdrive, trying to compensate for the inertia that could settle in. Even photography provided little comfort, and that scared me. I’ve grown to lean on it to get me through difficult times, and now I’m looking at the broader picture: that not one thing can make up for all the things that are biting at you. It’s too much to expect, much like putting all your faith into one person: it’s a big burden to bear. So at the end of a long week, I took my camera with me as we ran errands, no plan in mind (which is out of my comfort zone – as regular readers may know, I like order). I asked a man at a junk shop on Hamilton Avenue if I could take his photo, and he wordlessly slipped back into his shop, gently closing the door behind him. Later in our friend Sheryl’s garden, Jeff picked peppers, tomatoes, chard and sprigs of dill, while I walked around freezing in the cold sun, capturing tangles of overgrowth, getting lost behind the lens for brief moments.

in the garden

in the garden

Mayflower Street

Mayflower Street

Hamilton Avenue

Hamilton Avenue

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Summer Notes
August 29, 2014, 6:42 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , ,
Route 66, Cook Forest, PA

Route 66, Cook Forest, PA

It’s funny how, for years, I lived with that “summer promise” feeling in the back of my mind: the one where, once school is over, adventure and change awaits – but it’s only another season. I worked lots of overtime, watched Veronica Mars, buried myself in books. Struggling lately to get through A Tale for the Time Being, but I’m having trouble with fiction these days. My mind wanders. I’d rather be out in the world, photographing my ordinary neighborhood, and others’ ordinary neighborhoods. I reconnected with old friends from home. Seeing them in person for the first time in almost 20 years made my heart swell with love: do they know how much their friendship helped make me the woman I am today? It’s something I feel as if I don’t have to say out loud: coming from the same place, we have an understanding. This summer has been about comforts like car trips and faded photos; accepting middle age with humor and something like grace; finding ways to regroup after years of grief. It’s nostalgia for places so tiny they have disappeared from maps.

July: A birthday selfie,

July: A birthday selfie.

An Amish man in Rogers, OH.

An Amish man in Rogers, OH.

Ohio: When I think of summer, it looks something like this.

Ohio: When I think of summer, it looks something like this.

Old-fashioned fair food.

Old-fashioned fair food.

Our new little friend, Max.

Our new little friend, Max.

A house by the side of the road in Indiana County.

A house by the side of the road in Indiana County.

The end of the road: a mountain town in northern Pennsylvania.

The end of the road: a mountain town in northern Pennsylvania.




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