For more than a century, Pittsburgh has existed in the shadow of its own industrial-age narrative. Like much of Appalachia, Pittsburgh is a place dogged by stereotypes and assumptions. In recent years, an increasing number of photographers have come to western Pennsylvania with the intent of documenting the aftermath of the steel industry’s collapse. Some offer a fresh take on the present, others reinforce the limited views of the past.
A photo essay from the Spring 2016 issue.
In late summer of 1995, photographer and musician Richard Leo Johnson and his wife, Jane, lost almost everything they owned when their friend’s storage barn burned down in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Furniture, antiques, books, records, master tapes, and the whole of Johnson’s photography career over two decades—prints, negatives, everything—incinerated overnight. Last fall, a box of negatives was discovered in a Little Rock attic, hundreds of photographs from Richard’s early career—black-and-white pictures of everyday life in rural northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas.
Everything is Going to Be All Right, by Jared Ragland, is a photographic meditation on Walker Percy’s classic novel of New Orleans, The Moviegoer. In search of meaning amid feelings of loss, isolation, alienation, and malaise, Ragland is Binx Bolling with a camera.
In the series Memorial Water, Maury Gortemiller blends the familiar of everyday scenes into the surreal plane of memory. Whether photographing candidly or staging and digitally altering the shots, Gortemiller focuses on moments in one’s personal history that are just beyond clear recollection.