William Real: Still Images of an Evolving Pittsburgh Landscape

31 Mar

 

The ever-changing man-altered urban and industrial landscape fascinates me, both visually and as a metaphor for impermanence and the passage of time. For this subject, Pittsburgh is a photographic paradise. I’m drawn to the remaining industrial architecture in all its decrepit glory, even more so because I know it will soon disappear. The faded and crumbling character of Pittsburgh’s marginal, impoverished neighborhoods also beguiles me. As dilapidated houses are razed or yield to nature, holes open up in the urban fabric, reversing decades of urban densification and creating a landscape of a more rural character. There is a frenetic building boom going on here, structures vanishing and materializing seemingly overnight; brick, rust and aluminum siding replaced by rubble, ditches, scraped earth and piles of dirt, then by scaffolding, construction equipment, steel, insulation, and Tyvek and eventually by uninspired modern architecture, obliterating the memory of what was once there.

In the midst of this upheaval, I also seek out everyday streets, corners and places that are perhaps insignificant and invisible to most of us–so ordinary and seemingly permanent that we overlook and take them for granted, until they start to disappear, and eventually, are forgotten.

While many of my subjects are concerned with inevitable deterioration and loss, I also find that within the camera frame, images of inherent beauty and dignity materialize as if by magic.

Lately my camera is the one I always have with me, a Samsung Galaxy smart phone. This little pocket machine’s images, with post-processing in the digital darkroom, are surprisingly satisfactory for their purpose. The fixed wide-angle lens perfectly suits my usual subjects. I have more fun and less anxiety shooting than I used to with more sophisticated cameras, lenses, and gear.

I’m on Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/real00/

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