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about the pittsburgh project

For four years I documented Pittsburgh, a rustbelt town seated at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela rivers in Western Pennsylvania. In its heyday, Pittsburgh was an economic hub that served as one of the nation's largest producers of steel, coal, glass, and aluminum, attracting scores of immigrant workers for the promise of work in the mills. As Pittsburgh's economy boomed, its culture flourished, and the city became home to some of the most influential families in the country: the Carnegies, Rockerfellers, Fricks, Heinzes, Hillmans, and Mellons.

With the deindustrialization of the latter 20th century, Pittsburgh suffered a massive economic decline, losing half its population over the last 50 years alone. When I began the project, the city was having trouble affording some of the most basic of municipal services. In 2005 it could not keep public pools open in the summer or plow the streets in the winter. At one point the City of Pittsburgh was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy.

Today, Pittsburgh strives to diversify its industry. As area real estate is relatively inexpensive, companies are finding incentives for moving into the city. The sites of what once were the largest steel mills in the country have been cleared in favor of condos and shopping plazas.

The project documents Pittsburgh's struggle to reconcile its history with the uncertainty of its future. Like other cities across the nation's rustbelt, Pittsburgh has been forced to reinvent itself. There is hope that things are changing for the better, but only time will tell.

statement about the work

My photographic process has always been about documenting people and place to create records of the ordinary - and, through that process, finding poetry within the mundane. Creating large-scale panoramic photographs allows me to show simultaneously details and relationships at multiple spacial and perceptual levels—for example, both the self-conscious way a young woman holds her hand by her side as she allows someone to photograph her, as well as her place in the sea of people around her engaged in a similar task. It allows me to show a sweeping view of the cityscape from a distance, while simultaneously revealing the fine details of the scales of a fish that a boy proudly displays for the camera.

The photographs are on average around 85 inches long (there is also a 44 inch long version). They are ultrachrome inkjet prints, printed on a Epson 9800. Generally I assemble 6 to 8 separate images in PhotoShop to create almost a 360 view.