Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Homestead Canvas Philadelphia Photographer Sets Up Studio in Former Mill Town to Tell a Story of Daily Life

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Homestead Canvas Philadelphia Photographer Sets Up Studio in Former Mill Town to Tell a Story of Daily Life

Article excerpt

The modest storefront on East Eighth Avenue in Homestead is a photography studio, but it looks more like a community center or somebody's living room. Portraits hang on the walls along with recipes a neighbor brought over. On a rainy Saturday, people drift in through an open door to pick up photos, say hi or settle in for long conversations, sometimes with babies and dogs in tow.

Zoe Strauss, the Philadelphia photographer who set up the shop for "Homesteading," greets many visitors by first name as if she has known them all her life. Since she opened the studio on Labor Day, she's become a part of the community.

Ms. Strauss is here to take portraits of people who live or work in Homestead. Each person who sits for a portrait will get a copy. Between 200 and 300 of these 5-by-7-inch color images will be exhibited as part of this year's Carnegie International, which opens Saturday.

Ms. Strauss' work has appeared in numerous solo and group shows in the U.S. and internationally, and her work is part of the collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Over a 10-year period starting in 2001, she created "Under I-95" - - a collection of images that she hung on concrete pillars under Interstate 95 in South Philadelphia. She describes her work as "an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life."

That aesthetic is evident in the work she's creating for the International. She turns her humanist lens on the people of Homestead, capturing a range of the former steel town's current residents -- black, white, young, old.

It's a massive undertaking, with portrait appointments in the morning and open walk-in sessions in the afternoon, followed by printing and labeling photos.

"It's completely nuts," she said of her work schedule. "I planned for full throttle freight train movement of work. But it's worth it, completely worth it."

Homestead was the logical choice for the project because of its significance -- both in the past and now, Ms. Strauss said. …

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