The Long Way Home


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.

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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



At the Castle
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You wouldn’t know it judging by no coat and full sun, but I took this batch of photos in February, on a day that teased us with spring. It was windy, but so sunny it blew out most of the shots. We drove around looking for junk, only to discover some places closed, forever – the effects of post-recession life in western Pennsylvania, or simply, nobody wants to drive miles out of their way, to tiny forgotten towns to search the unwanted. For awhile though, I’ve wanted to take photos at Westinghouse Castle, and since we were close, we stopped there. I found it years before by accident: going to a cousin’s baby shower, I had taken a wrong turn and pulled along a massive stone building with a giant clock tower. I wondered about the royal industrial family that once lived there and discovered it is actually the Westinghouse office building, dubbed “the Castle” for that giant clock tower that still keeps time. It was a museum, then closed (when the recession kicked in), and now it’s again an office building. The pavement surrounding the building was threaded with cracks, and small patches of snow glistened in late-daylight. I thought about how most of my generation has lived through one recession or another, how I have to find the beauty in what is ordinary – how eerily quiet it was as I looked up at a window, the curtain pulled back as if someone had just been there, watching.

four o'clock

four o’clock

spring tease

spring tease

test shot

test shot



Frozen
January 2, 2014, 6:39 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , , ,
Route 22, Delmont

Route 22, Delmont

It’s been a little quiet here on the blog since we had computer problems sometime in mid-December. We fixed that problem, updated some software, and hell: I feel like a new person all ready to kick some new year’s ass! I used that time to work a lot over the holidays, but also take a small break from social media. Sure, I peeked in each day to see what was going on, what people are up to – but I tried not to get sucked into the vortex. I’m starting off the year doing three things that put me out of my comfort zone: pitching a magazine article to a publication I admire; shooting the wedding ceremony of an old friend; and writing a TABLE article in a week while working full-time. This is the year I turn forty, and if I make one resolution to myself it is this: proceed with fearlessness. 

Christmas Eve Day, Neville Island

Christmas Eve Day, Neville Island

Quality Cleaners, McKees Rocks

Quality Cleaners, McKees Rocks

Gem Way, Garfield/Pittsburgh

Gem Way, Garfield/Pittsburgh

Frozen, Neville Island

Frozen, Neville Island

Christmas Day, Downtown

Christmas Day, Downtown



Mon Valley: Chapter One
December 8, 2013, 7:21 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , ,
Charleroi: A white house in blue.

Charleroi: A white house in blue.

The Monongahela Valley follows the Monongahela River from its origin in northern West Virginia, flowing north to Pittsburgh, where it joins the Ohio River. The “Mon Valley” today is the colloquialism for factory towns that run from the edge of the city, through Braddock, McKeesport, Clairton, Duquesne, and into Washington County. If you’re not from this area, these names may mean nothing to you, but like most factory towns, they were once places of booming industries, churning out steel or cutting glass for the rest of the country. McKeesport is the site of the first G.C. Murphy Co., and birthplace of one of my favorite photographers, Duane Michals. Charleroi had one of the first movie theaters in the world, and to my delight, now has a haunted antiques store (they are also home, I found out recently, to a World Kitchen plant that makes Pyrex). We went looking for lost treasures in old buildings that once housed families, businesses, secrets. Traveling along these river towns that flow one into the next, I found stories.

New Eagle: Found mirror.

New Eagle: Found mirror.

Charleroi: Santa break.

Charleroi: Santa break.

Monongahela: Secret passeway.

Monongahela: Secret passageway.

Charleroi: A shop on the main street.

Charleroi: A shop on the main street.

Charleroi: Nowhere house.

Charleroi: Nowhere house.

Charleroi: Blue door to an old bank.

Charleroi: Blue door to an old bank.

Charleroi: A steep hill.

Charleroi: A steep hill.



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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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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