A Pittsburgh Art Appreciation Post

I grew up surrounded by art. My grandfather was a painter, a photographer, and everything else you can imagine that involved creating something from virtually nothing. He was also in love with all types of music. We painted together listening to tunes from the time I could hold a bottle to the time he couldn’t hold his paint brush anymore. I will forever be grateful for him introducing this powerful form of therapy to me. The beauty of art has helped me tremendously throughout my 23 years of life.

So Pittsburgh…I want to start off by saying how amazing I think the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is. I especially feel a connection with it now that I’ve started photographing more of its people and events. I come from a small town in West Virginia, but I’ve always felt so grateful being less than an hour away from this gem.

So onto the adventure…
I was referred by one of my photographer friends to go check out a studio on Polish Hill (The Pittsburgh Tin Type Studio). He said that the owner of the studio was doing a project, so I brought one of my best friends Mary Kate along for the journey.

The idea was to photograph a complete stranger, hear their story, learn something from them, then do it all over again with another stranger.

Enter Jason Snyder’s kingdom of photography.

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These photographs aren’t your typical photographs though. When we arrived, I was blown away by the amount of pictures and camera equipment that filled the room. He takes his photographs with an old-fashioned 19th century camera. I learned that he creates the film with a mixture of chemicals, which is brilliant to me. He develops the photos on glass (ambrotype) and metal (tin type) where the results come out beautifully and almost like magic. As soon as I met Jason, I was extremely impressed by his knowledge and passion for his artwork. This wasn’t about being “cool”, but more so about the love he had for such an authentic art.

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We talked for a while about our lives and what we did for a living and then got our photos taken. I went first. When you pose, you have to keep your pose. NO MOVING! Once he removes the cap off of his camera, it captures the image in an 8 second exposure. Right after it is done taking the picture, Jason removes the glass and develops it in his homemade darkroom (which takes way less time than I expected).

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He dipped it in some chemicals, rinsed it, and VIOLA! Sounds a lot easier said than done… haha

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I look so mad at life. He said I looked “honest”.

I was so intrigued at this point. I was so pumped to watch Mary Kate get hers done.

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Her photo was developed on clear glass.

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Beaut.

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The mastermind behind it all.

This was such a sweet experience, and I’m so glad we got to do this.

In the same building as Jason’s studio, there is another photographer, a painter, an esthetician, and a clothing designer. Cool, right? Hoping to get the others names to add…

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After our experience at the Pittsburgh TinType Studio, Mary Kate and I went and grabbed some yummy hotdogs and drinks from Franktuary. So good. We contemplated on where we were going next because our day had just begun! By that time it was early evening, BUT WE WEREN’T READY TO END THE ADVENTURE!

I ultimately decided on taking her to one of the most colorful places in Pittsburgh, Randyland, since she had never been there before.

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When your friends don’t really know how to work your camera… *cough* Mary Kate *cough*

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I have such a deep fascination for Randy- mostly because he is so incredibly real.

We had a really eye-opening conversation near the end of our visit. He started saying things that made so much sense. I couldn’t help but take a video of him explaining it. In it, he says:

“We’re all thumb prints – that means we’re not even the same as our parents. We’re not really the same as anyone, you know? We’re completely beautiful, unique and special in our own ways. That means we don’t have to compare ourselves ever again to anyone. There’s no use in whining saying ‘someone else got more than me or somebody else is smarter, they have different looks, or have this or that’, because you are a thumb print. You’re perfect your way, and they are perfect their way. It’s good to be different, and I’m glad I don’t look like anybody. I’m glad that nobody is like me, and I’m not like them. We’re all beautiful. We are perfect.”

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He continued… “See that giant tree right there? That giant giant giant tree? You should have as many journeys as the branches on that tree, and you should have as many dreams as the leaves at the end of it’s branches. Do you realize what you have in your heart? You can be anything – you can go any way. All of those branches are yours. They zig, they zag, they twist, they turn, they bend in the wind and they reach onward, upward, outward, forward. You’re perfect. You can do anything. The thing is, with the branches of our tree, you have to remember there are as many roots at the end of that tree as there are branches at the top of that tree. Sometimes people go up branches and they realize that they shouldn’t have gone that way. The mind sometimes takes you to things that you like, (but you really don’t know how much you liked), and all of the sudden you start going and going and going… and then you say ‘I’m here, but I don’t want to be here now’. What you should have done is thought about the trunk of the tree – the roots.”

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Basically, in conclusion to this post I just want to say that Pittsburgh is one heck of a city. The city is growing so much and that makes me really excited. I have yet to explore all of it, but I look forward to those days. I am so inspired by every single artist in Pittsburgh. Thank you Jason and thank you Randy for motivating me- adding more fuel to my burning desire to feel, see, and understand the arts in this community and all it has to offer.