353 posts by matthew

High anxiety days as of late. Took a walk in Braddock this afternoon to catch some relief and found this discarded big screen on Washington Avenue near the Monongahela River. I remember when these were new. I worked as a stock clerk at Sears at the time, after dropping out of high school, and we used to uncrate these

“That’s sad, isn’t it?” a woman says, watching me peer through the window of an abandoned storefront on Braddock Avenue. The doors, wreathed in gold, are partially open with an old chain holding them together. The smell of dust and mildew is strong in the air, wafting from the crack in the door as if the building let out a…

From the photographic archives of The Sporting News comes this image of Pitt’s Clyde Vaughn standing side-by-side with comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who holds up an honorary Pittsburgh jersey, c. 1980–1984.

Several years back, while researching the Monongahela River Valley, I discovered the photographs of Joe Katrencik—who spent time in the early 1970s as a teacher at Clairton Catholic. What struck me about his photographs is how a series of images from the past can really put the present in greater perspective. For example, in his caption to an image of Clairton…

Alternate views of history often intrigue me more than straightforward accounts. That’s why I find this Ben Shahn illustration of Martin Luther King Jr. so compelling. Originally commissioned as a cover for Time magazine in 1965, Shahn’s portrait of King was “part of a portfolio of prints created for the American Civil Liberties Union, which focused on civil rights. The portfolio…

In the July 1983 issue of Life magazine, writer Cheryl McCall and photographer Mary Ellen Mark published “Streets of the Lost,” an in-depth article and photo essay on Seattle street kids. In the piece, McCall and Mark tell the story of a group of homeless and runaway teens—Tina, a 13-year-old prostitute with dreams of diamonds and furs; Rat and Mike,…

In the annals of American journalism, the Cleveland Press was a long-running and influential daily newspaper known for its attention to working class issues. As a result, many of the newspaper’s articles dug deep in the muck of city business—from sanitation strikes and public transit problems, to urban renewal backlash and pollution control.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, the New York Times has launched a new series dubbed “Caught in Poverty.” For the inaugural article in the series, journalist Trip Gabriel and photographer Travis Dove visited McDowell County, “the poorest in West Virginia…emblematic of entrenched American poverty for more than a half-century.” On visiting McDowell County, what…

Something reminded me of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology this morning. It was probably my ever-present and rather burdensome obsession with death (which might be funny if it weren’t so true). Anyhow, if you’ve never read the book, it’s a fascinating collection of short poems that narrate the epitaphs of the residents of a fictional small town called Spoon…

I experienced an odd moment of synchronicity this morning. After reading “Death Stares,” Tamara Kneese’s essay for The New Inquiry that examines selfies, narcissism, and death in the digital age, I then came across this passage from photographer Mike Mandel’s Myself: Timed Exposures, published in 1971:

On Tuesday, if my friend Mike were still alive, he would have turned 37 years old. It’s been almost three-and-a-half years now since he died. And most days I catch myself thinking about him in one way or another — like the time he tried to convince me that we wouldn’t sound like fools if we talked like Doughboy from

During World War II, propaganda was an indispensable tool for both the Allies and the Axis. In Germany, for example, the Nazi newspaper Storm SS acted as a mouthpiece for the Third Reich and a forum for propagandist imagery. Kultur-Terror (pictured above), illustrated by Harald Damsleth, is a perfect example. In this image Damsleth, a Norwegian cartoonist who contributed countless…

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When Jay Neugeboren published Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival, a book about his brother’s lifelong struggle with mental illness, telling the story in an honest and accurate way was at the forefront of his thoughts. In a recent essay in the New

Yesterday the World Press Photo Awards were announced. As usual, a certain amount of controversy always surrounds the top selection — whether people are enthusiastic, outraged, or underwhelmed by the image. This year American photojournalist John Stanmeyer won for “Signal,” his photograph of “African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to…

In 1991 photographer Angela Kelly visited Rainbow House, a Chicago shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Like most shelters, the temporary residence affords women, many who are mothers, a moment to collect themselves and figure out how to start over — which is not exactly a simple task with easy answers. Kelly became aware of…

On the last day of January Lemoin Thompson III, better known as Buddy Esquire, died in a tragic fire at his home in the Bronx. Esquire, often referred to as the “king of the hip-hop flyer,” was an innovator in designing handbills for the block parties that were responsible for the growth of hip-hop in its earliest days.

In a December 1991 National Geographic article titled “Pittsburgh–Stronger Than Steel,” journalist Peter Miller and photographer Nathan Benn examined the city during the final days of its second Renaissance. Readers were given a glimpse of Pittsburgh in the wake of Big Steel’s collapse, and shown what the city had to offer outside of manufacturing.

In Thomas M. Johnson’s Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburb, he pays homage, in part, to William Levitt’s idyllic vision for planned living in postwar America. Introduced by a passage from D.J. Waldie, author of Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir, Johnson’s take on the suburban dream is quickly boiled down: “He’s picturing the place where stories of working-class aspirations…

During the research for a new essay I’m writing on the role of identity in Appalachia, I revisited Calvin Trillin’s 1969 New Yorker piece on the death of Canadian filmmaker Hugh O’Connor  at the hands of Hobart Ison. The case of O’Connor represents an extreme example of the public’s distrust of the media:

Over at Texas Monthly, John Spong writes about about photographer Roberta Bayley’s experience covering the Sex Pistols’ ill-conceived 1978 tour of the United States. Never much a fan of Johnny Rotten and company, reading about the culture clash — which was purposely engineered by Malcolm McLaren (e.g., “His goal was conflict and the free press it would generate”) — is…