A Few Blocks in Ambridge began innocuously enough. After moving into a new place on the opposite side of Pittsburgh, my fiancée, Lynn, and I started going for walks. I’d never lived in town before and was immediately enamoured with the constantly changing environment. This particular town, Ambridge, derived its name from the American Bridge Company which was responsible for the manufacturing of many iconic bridges and buildings in the Pittsburgh area and across the country. It left Ambridge in the early 80s and the town’s economy has struggled ever since.
Older houses and businesses decay while few are renovated. Many retaining walls and side walks slowly succumb to weeds and Pennsylvania winters. Some of the neighborhoods have a bad reputation yet the community remains vibrant and diverse. The high school and its football stadium and sports complexes sit at the center of the community both physically and socially. We live right across the street and it is here each of our walks begin.
After adopting our first dog, Luna, in March of 2016 those walks were suddenly happening at least twice a day. I had just started using a digital camera after almost 20 years of shooting film and 12 years of large format. It was perfect timing. Things move quickly here and many of the vantage points are not view camera friendly. The ephemeral nature of light and the natural landscape have always been my primary inspiration but suddenly I found myself consumed with a small area in a small town.
I began connecting to its people through objects and spaces; an old volleyball outside the gym, a clearing fog in someone’s backyard, the changing of the football field’s turf. I’ve only managed to include one person in the background of a single photograph (the exception that proves the rule, perhaps) but the work is all about people and a sense of place. And light.
After a year and six months, we’re probably over halfway through our time living here but I’m still excited to grab the camera and head out the door. I never know what I'm going to find but there is always something new to photograph if I’m open to it.
© Shawn Dougherty