Jul 142008

Clairton’s welcome sign boasts that it’s the City of Prayer. "It can’t be that bad," Christina reasoned. "It’s the City of Prayer, after all." Having grown up one town over from Clairton, I laughed knowingly and corrected her. "Yeah, because it needs prayers."

Pretty much Clairton’s motto.

The kind of place Henry used to take broads before he met me.

Almost every speciality shop is closed up now, but there were still several small groups of people milling about. Not a single one of them passed by without eyeballing us with beady suspicion. I’m sure we stuck out like a sore thumb: two pasty girls shuffling around nervously, one with a giant camera slung around her neck; the other with bleached hair, a bright orange polo, and a visage of general retardedness.

Christina marveled at how it seemed everyone knew each other.  Sometimes I wish I lived in a place like that, but then I remember that means I’d have to talk to people.

I had to beg this guy for a picture. His eyes were yellow and red all at once. I lied and said it was for a school project, and he seemed a potentially volatile mix of skeptical and paranoid. He finally threw his arms up and said, "Aw hell, take your damn picture." I thanked him profusely and prayed that he wouldn’t change his mind afterward and jump me for the evidence.

I half-expected a pitbull named 8ball to spring against the fence with effervescent lips and a murderous snarl.

The one thing I noticed about Clairton is that, despite the degree of dilapidation and abandonment, there wasn’t too much litter. I wish I could say the same for my lame town. My yard especially is like a trash vortex. Every week, after the garbage is picked up, all the stray trash blows right to my front yard.

This guy was a very laid-back subject. He was kind of like, "Look, once you got the n-word spray painted on your house, very little phases you."

God saw you, indeed.


Pre-hospitalization dork alert.


  15 Responses to “Clairton”

  1. Sometimes I wish I lived in a place like that, but then I remember that means I’d have to talk to people.

    AMEN, sister!!

    I love your pictures. I don’t know how you get the colors so rich, almost everything you photograph has this haunted feeling about it. I love that you have enough courage to ask someone if you can photograph them. =P I’m asking Tim for new memory cards and batteries for my camera for my birthday this weekend, I’d like to start taking more pictures.

  2. i love the way you see things. you get one chance to get these shots… it’s crazy.

    for example you turned the semi-frightening guy that most people would run from into a genuine piece of art.

    • I really wasnt trying to take too much time setting up shots, because god only knows how many townies were gearing up to set up shots of their own.

      I LOVED THAT GUY! He was so exasperated.

  3. Love the one of the truck against the brick building. Not only is it technically well done it has great composition. I dig the way the window mirrors the truck as dark spots on the light building and break up the pattern. I also love the little strips of color at the top and bottom. Those bits of color really frame the monochrome focal point and keep your eye on target.

    • Thank you for actually LOOKING at these. I try to get people to see that even rundown towns can produce something that’s beautiful or intriguing to look at, but mostly my friends and family scoff and think I’m weird for going to “ghettos.” They don’t get it and it’s frustrating!

    • Are you taking any classes? I loved photography classes and the evaluations were my favorite part. It was so awesome to get feedback from other people who get it and know how to look at photos. And, of course, it’s made it so I can hardly look at photos without really LOOKING at photos.

      Next time Henry comes to Detroit you’ll have to come with him. I know some great locations for photo shoots, especially night shoots.

    • The only class I’ve ever taken was a pinhole one last winter. I would LOVE to get some classes in if/when I get some time. That would be a lot of fun, and it would be nice to actually know what the hell I’m doing rather just wing it like I have been, lol.

      My camera is pretty cool and I don’t make use of all its capabilities, which I really want to start doing.

    • I’d highly recommend it if you get a chance. I learned so much and it really improved the way I take pictures. And it really is fun. I found working in the darkroom increadibly relaxing.

  4. Ok this is OT, but i was just looking at woot and the description they gave on this printer reminded me so much of one of your stories it was wierd, did you get a job with woot? Well, mostly like one of yours, just without a dead person or thumbs in chili or vampires. you gotta check it out.

  5. these are ace. the picture of the black dude is my favorite. i LOVE it.

  6. Ah, Clairton. You’ve got guts to walk around down there and taking pictures. It’s looking more scary with it being more emptied out than it used to be. Your pictures are great (and I enjoy your commentary on here as well) Is that the “man in white” in the picture before it too?

Say it don't spray it.

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