Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

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/

David Grim

7 Feb

I originally started taking photographs when I turned thirty and had dreams of making my own short movies. I couldn’t afford a digital movie camera at the time, and the technology was new and unimpressive. Instead I decided to learn some basics with a still-shot camera, and that is how I ended up with my first Canon G-series Powershot. After a few years I found myself encouraged to show some of my work in a coffee shop, and then in galleries… and in this fashion a decade-and-a-half progressed in what seemed like a blink of an eye. Today I’m still taking stills, although aiming for a certain element of narrative tone and cinematic atmosphere in almost every shot.
These particular images are drawn from a series of night walks I’ve taken over the last several months through various neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, PA (USA). I feel it’s important for me to point out that, while I do use in-camera filters to achieve a certain feeling in my shots, I do absolutely no post-processing. It’s not that I have anything in particular against Photoshop (in fact I hold the skills necessary to make that program sing in high esteem!). But I am striving for immediacy in my work, encouraged by my knowledge that I have to find what I am seeking “out there” rather than in the comfort and safety of my home after the fact. I feel like this approach adds some creative tension that would otherwise be missing from my work. I’ve always worked better when I set some arbitrary parameters for myself.
I love exploring the underbelly and the back end of my city in the dark. Luckily I’m blessed with the size and bearing that seems to intimidate bystanders from interfering with my reveries. I have the feeling that one of the reasons people seem inclined to take time with my photos is the simple fact that many wouldn’t feel comfortable going where I go at such times as I prefer. At any rate I have a great time getting lost in the stories in my head as I wander through these alleys and gritty industrial nether-zones. I never fail to delight in the unexpected at the periphery of our everyday lives. To me there is nothing more authentic than a glimpse behind the face that society presents. I feel like my wanderings are full of such gifts, and I can only hope to capture and share them with others.

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