From the introduction to Vol. 1: Pittsburgh’s history is enchanting. It is the land of pierogies, babushkas, neb-noses, gumbands, jagoffs, jimmies and redding up. The first night World Series was played here ... the first polio vaccine was developed here ... the first motion-picture theater was opened here ... and the first Big Mac and banana split were eaten here. Few American cities have retained their immigrant-founded ethnic neighborhoods, and yet proud Pittsburghers can still be thoroughly Polish, German, Jewish or Italian in Polish Hill, Deutschtown, Squirrel Hill or Bloomfield.
Pittsburgh now looks to a future of innovative technology, medicine, financial services and education, and is rightly proud of its blue-collar charm and much-lauded livability. But Pittsburghers are slow to give up their ghosts. Rusted skeletons of steel mills and rail depots line the rivers, corroded reminders of a city’s past forged in steel. Churches built in the 19th century by devout East European immigrants now stand desanctified and decayed.
For me, it’s not enough to just pass by these empty places every day. I want to see inside. I want to know what happened there. I want to see what was left behind. After all, there are so few mysteries in our modern world. Abandoned Pittsburgh is a personal project documenting these forgotten places where a strange, haunting beauty still exists.
The sites photographed for these books sit unguarded and forgotten, protected only by no-trespassing signs and the primal fear of a dark, empty space. Suppressing that fear gets no easier over time. It won’t be long before I stumble onto a security guard, a squatter or a ghost.