The Long Way Home


Salvage
A house in the Strip District that I pass on my daily work commute.

Row houses in the Strip District that I pass on my daily work commute.

Photography is magic: I love how one shot can make an ordinary scene look spooky, or unusual, putting it to the forefront of people’s minds. Like the house in the above shot: I pass it every day on my way to work, thinking each time: I have to stop and take a photo, and one rainy April morning I did. It’s actually the back of three row houses, with an empty lot in front of it, most likely the previous site of another building. It intrigued me because the Strip District in Pittsburgh is primarily a neighborhood stacked with warehouses; I imagine these row houses were once occupied by people who worked in one of those businesses – now occupied by who knows? This was my first shot in the film pack, and I got excited, taking it as a kiss of luck, but the shots that followed turned out completely blank, and I was pissed, thinking of the plans I had for this film, and how sometimes, I am a messy, careless photographer – I get too far ahead of myself. I transferred the pack to my SLR680, and let the camera sit for a few weeks, knowing at some point I had to use yup the film. And after a long week at my day job – a hot, muggy, anxiety-ridden day where I wasn’t feeling too creative – I used some old standbys to pull me through.

Test shot, hand-held.

Test shot, hand-held.

Out of focus: An old mirror that Jeff found in the trash with an old bed sheet for a backdrop.

Out of focus: An old mirror that Jeff found in the trash with an old bed sheet for a backdrop.

Close-up in mirror: Note my knee to the right in the background.

Close-up in mirror: Elbows resting on floor serves as tripod – resourcefulness.

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Polaroid Week: Days 1 & 2
July 16, 2013, 11:17 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,
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sunflower garden – day one

It’s Polaroid Week in the instant film world, and I thought I’d track my days’ posts here. This year I decided to stick around my neighborhood and take new photos of places you may have seen pop up in other photos – notice the infamous graffiti wall in our backyard? Now covered in gorgeous sunflowers almost as tall as I am. It’s moments like these that I really love my home, through all seasons.

5100 s. millvale

5100 n. winebiddle – day one

camp ohio - day two

camp ohio – day two

self-portrati with flower and polaroid (beside me) - day two

self-portrait with flower and polaroid (beside me) – day two



Umbrella Project
September 4, 2012, 5:16 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , ,

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Utata is an online photography group that publishes two large group projects a year, and for this second one, they asked us to concentrate on one object or group of objects. I had this idea in my head brewing for some time of Jeff standing in a cornfield holding an umbrella. We had to drive out to the country, and when we were in the country, my heart would sink each time we passed rows of cornstalks getting taller by the week. There was always a reason not to stop: it rained, it was fenced off in barbed wire, it was somebody’s yard, how would we explain this to the people who lived there. Finally on our trip to Bethlehem, I had Billy stop the car; Jeff threw his suit jacket over his shoulders and climbed up a muddy hill for me to get that one shot. It’s not how I pictured it would turn out, but isn’t that how most art works? I’m happy to have a man who understands my ridiculous requests (and helps make them happen).

View “Just One Thing” project here.

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Road Trip Diary
July 3, 2012, 6:06 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , ,

wytheville, virginia

The challenge of taking self-portraits is coming up with something different each time and lately, I don’t feel very creative; I find that I end up taking a lot of similar shots. But being on the road provides a change of setting, which also means opportunities to create new stories and find ones along the way. When I started taking photos, self-portraiture was a  convenient way to integrate human with landscape – certain places sparked my interest in our road trips, and nobody but Jeff and I were there to fill the empty spaces. I see a bright blue abandoned house on a gray day, and imagine how the scene would look with a woman in a red dress standing next to it. The motel off the highway becomes a makeshift studio; I use a table for a tripod, the 10-second timer. I have a whole list of places I have yet to go: the Badlands, an open field, a slew of nameless towns in the middle of nowhere.

fayetteville, west virginia

fayetteville, west virginia

wytheville, virginia

weeki wachee, florida



Let’s Begin at the End
June 14, 2012, 5:33 AM
Filed under: North Carolina | Tags: , , ,

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A few years ago, Jeff and I thought it would be fun to drive to Florida for our annual family visit to Ocala – we’d stop along the way, trolling junk stores, finding forgotten towns. Maybe it’s just the busyness of this year, but the drive felt more tedious than usual. Fifteen hours in the car, even split over two days, is rough, especially on mind-numbing I-95. But in the last hours of our journey, we had stepped into another dimension. We checked into our motel and received a complimentary upgrade to a suite – a giant, wood-paneled room with a living area that appeared on camera as if in doll-house scale. I jumped on the bed, leaped off the back of the couch. I took cheesy bathroom mirror shots, turned the air on full blast. I opened the curtains to let the setting sun cast a deep orange across our room. I love being on the road because it takes me that much closer to home.

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Hotel Stories
May 15, 2011, 7:34 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,

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My friend Kris, whom I’ve known for almost 15 years, got married on May 7. It was a lovely wedding – simple and elegant, a grown-up affair that gave me the chance to wear one of my vintage lbd’s, drinking glass after glass of Chardonnay. Yet my inner trashiness surfaced as I hogged through plates of dumplings, invaded empty lounge areas for photos and cursed my awesome-looking heels as they tortured my feet. Events like weddings give me access to places I normally wouldn’t have the courage to just walk into for photo opportunities. In between the cocktail reception and dinner we ran around the lobby, then the tea room, rode the elevators to check out different floors. It was like stepping into the plot of the mystery novels I love so much when I need an escape.

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History Lesson
April 17, 2011, 7:48 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , ,

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I collect to remember the past. The altar came from a junk shop in Braddock, the Orthodox icon from an estate sale.  A ’70s dress and uncombed hair. Blue-robed virgin from Pennsylvania Dutch country. One saint found in a garden, another in one of my mother’s coat pockets. My great-grandmother and father Dell’Aquila from Puglia. I piece together shards of personal history, through photos, through yellowed scraps of paper that my mother stashed in boxes. I keep having dreams where she is alive. She weaves stories from her place at the kitchen table and when I wake up, it’s as if she visited me in real life. And then there are dreams where she isn’t in them at all, but I feel lost, something amiss, like catching the glimpse of someone leaving a room  before she closes the door behind her.

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