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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 TVs and have to hoist them up on tall display risers on the sales floor. These seemed like the pinnacle of technology at that moment, something I’d never be able to afford given my trajectory. Fast forward 15 or 20 years and it’s no more valuable than a spent Budweiser can. Scrappers won’t even bother with them. There’s not necessarily a lesson to be learned here, because most everyone knows objects like this have a lifespan. But to see a TV wreathed in weeds, so far from an electrical outlet, the only thing that can bring it back to life, is jarring in the same way that a single shoe on a highway can incite worry. It offers a story with no arc, a truncated history of separation from its intended place or person.

(Photograph: Matthew Newton. Caption: Washington Avenue in Braddock,Pennsylvania, April 2016.)

“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 sigh. Inside there are thousands of items strewn across shelves and left in haphazard piles on the floor. A metal bedpan rests against the glass of a display window; trinkets languish in the darkness just out of view. It appears to have been a junk shop, one that I recall having stepped foot in at some point in recent years. Now it sits among dozens of other storefronts in Braddock that exist between near-death and obsolescence, a reality shared by countless mom and pop shops throughout the Monongahela River Valley. Change is taking place in Braddock, but it’s hard to ignore such examples of business dreams derailed by unknown circumstances. As I turn to walk away, the woman shakes her head. “Not a slice of pizza or nothin’ on this dead-ass street.”

(Photograph: Matthew Newton. Caption: Storefront on Braddock Avenue, November 2016.)

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. Read more…

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 from 2009, which offers a stark snapshot of the area’s decline, Katrencik recounted his experience: Read more…

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 was then sold to raise funds for the civil rights movement.” Read more…