We invited two Pittsburgh-based photographers, Anna Lee-Fields and Emily O’Donnell, to answer five questions about Pittsburgh, revitalization, and the city’s space. With divergent backgrounds and perspectives, Anna and Emily’s photographs and text ask us to see Pittsburgh from two different angles. AND WE’D LOVE TO INCLUDE MORE! Add your voice and eyes to the project by choosing one of the questions from the list and answering it with photographs of your own. You can post photos to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook using the hashtag #2ndsteel, or you can email them to cory (at) yinzerspielen (dot) org and they’ll be posted to the blog.
Join the Unlisted: Second Steel team for our fundraiser at Wigle Whiskey on July 8 for the chance to win a print of one of these photographs!
1. What inspires you in Pittsburgh?
2. What does revitalization mean to you?
3. How is Pittsburgh unique in its use of space?
4. What’s a common misconception about Pittsburgh?
5. How do you see Pittsburgh changing right now?
Wandering the hills of the city there are pockets of green space hidden in the midst of urban sprawl. Sometimes the green comes up without warning and spreads out before you as if it will take back the city. Sometimes I get lost in the green forget there is a city outside at all. Descending the depths into Schenley Park from the chaotic noise of Oakland, I find moments of peace. Inspiration comes where nature meets urban, where the two blend together seamlessly, and it comes when I traverse two separate worlds and see how they coexist.
Fostering and encouraging innovation. Pittsburgh is flourishing with startup projects and new ideas. With higher learning institutions, like CMU and University of Pittsburgh, and with startup incubators, such as AlphaLab and Thrill Mill, these projects are cultivated. I believe this type of support encourages a lively forward thinking community.
Taking the old and making it new again, both physically and symbolically, is revitalizing. The worn down steel mills, the empty breweries, the plethora of churches that stand atop hills, all stood empty until someone came along to give them new life. The churches stand for something more, each of them transformed into the temple for a new type of worship; food and drink at Church Brew, smoke and leisure at Sphinx, music at Altar and Smalls. Discarding the stale atmosphere for something new. A revitalization of the exterior that helps to revive the interior.
Repurposing. Pittsburgh is bringing relevance back to spaces and buildings. Prime examples would be repurposing obsolete steel mills (i.e. Waterfront) and abandoned steel mill communities (i.e. Hazelwood).
Everything overlaps in Pittsburgh; one element of the city cannot survive without the others. Neighborhoods overlap until you don’t know where you are anymore, except to know that you are always home. Art and science overlap, medicine and technology, education and entertainment. Sports overlaid upon every aspect of culture. Pittsburgh is unique in its lack of space, everything and everyone is closely knit, and everything overlaps. We do so much with so little space.
Steel, smoke, and industry left a stain on the city far deeper than can be shown. The city is a living thing; it can still taste the smoke of the past in its lungs with every word spoken by outsiders who do not know. Pittsburgh is a steel town, blue collar and uneducated, dirty and smoky and you can hardly breathe at all. This is how long the smoke stains have lasted, they are so indelible that it is hard for them to see the green town, the city of learning, the clean air and the beauty that can be found.
There have been so many new titles for the city in the years I have been here. Pittsburgh is changing in so many ways that they cannot themselves accurately identify what is most important. Steel City; City of Champions; I heard Green City at one point, and more recently I have heard that Pittsburgh is Art. This is how the city is changing, art is everywhere. Art overlaps with the other elements of the city until it is ingrained in all of them; education, science, technology, sports. Art is essential and Pittsburgh is Art.
This photo project was inspired by Bettery Magazine’s Change of View series. Check it out—it’s beautiful. Special thanks also to artists whose work is featured in Anna’s photos: Justin Hopper, Monika Gibson of ZuzaBlue, Dani Buncher of TeamMate, and Stephanie Armbruster.