Sunday, September 21, 2014

Renovo Pa.

                                                         R.R. Worker

In the northern central part of Pennsylvania there is a region called the Pennsylvania Wilds. It is a rural mountainous and pristine land of over 2 million acres.  We enjoyed tent camping in this region of the state and had many encounters with the large timber rattles that populate the area.  When we camped and hiked we always stayed on the trials and kept a watchful eye out for both snakes and black bear that roam the area.  While exploring this area we always took time to visit the small mountain towns we came across.  One small town we visited was called Renovo.  It sits on the west branch of the Susquehanna River and was an old logging and mining town build in the early 1800's.  When we pulled into town we were both impressed and sadden with the old stately buildings that were vacant and in a state of disrepair.  We could see that this was once prosperous town with grand buildings from the old logging days in the Pennsylvania mountains.  We took time out to walk around the town and look at some of the old buildings.  I came across this old 5 & 10 store and was taken back to thoughts of my childhood when these stores were in every small town.  I setup my view camera and as I was composing the scene of the store front, I notice this man coming my way down the street.  I stopped him to ask a few questions about the area and he told me a long history about the old town.  He was a R.R. worker on his way to work, and said he was one of the few people left working in the massive R.R. yards that is located across from the main street.  Renovo was a properous Railroad town that hauled lumber and coal from the mountains.  It's wealth was generated by the hard work of immigrate families who came to America seeking a better life.  At one time the town had a population of nearly 5,000 people, now it has been reduced to about 1,000.  Growing in the weeds with the boarded up store fronts one can see the remains of the hopes, dreams, and hard work of a past generation.

Some videos of this old town.

Monday, September 15, 2014


I made this image in the 80's near my home town.  It was in the small rural town of Rathbone, N.Y.  It is an old farming and lumber community that time has passed by.  The house these kids are standing in front of used to be the old Magnolia Hotel that sits by the R.R. tracks.  Back in the day it was a grand place and a stop for vaudeville actors traveling the country doing their shows.  It was the home town for the family of James Whitmore the actor.  They were some of the original early settlers and many family members remain in the area today.  Today the old hotel building is gone and the kids grown up but most likely still living in the area.  People in this rural region of N.Y. rarely travel far from where they were born. The area is rustic and full of people with interesting characters and an old way of life.

Monday, September 8, 2014


My Grandparent immigrated to the U.S. from a small remote mountain town in southern Italy.  We have traveled back a number of times to spend time with relatives that still live there.  Each time we go we have always enjoyed the people and the old way of life that exist there.  We noticed with a recent trip in 2014 that the little mountain towns were losing their young people to the cities, and the old way of life and culture is fast fading away.  The old people that filled the streets and piazza have died out, and with them went the life and vibrancy that made up the character of the town.  I made this image of two bothers going to work in their orchards back in 2006.  I stopped and talked with them in my best broken Italian.  I noticed if I told people my last name I was instantly accepted as a member of the community, and it made photographing people an easy task.  Last month I walked the empty streets and felt sad with the loss of the people and the traditions that will be gone forever.  I feel fortunate that I was able to capture a little of this life and culture with my camera.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


I lived most of my years in a small rural town in western N.Y. near the Pennsylvania boarder.  It is a region of the foothills to the Appalachian Mts.  The area offered a diverse culture of quaint small towns and backroads full of old country folk.  I made this photograph back in the 80's with my view camera using Tri-x film.  It was after sunset on a summers evening when I made this image of Amos at his home.  He is the last of a hillbilly family that lived in the area.  His one room shack never has had electric or running water.  He grew up there with his brother, and parents.  The family walked everywhere they wanted to go and it was a good eight miles or more down to our little town.  I remember pulling up to his house as he was sitting there, and thinking I hope I can make his photograph.  I had seen him many times over the years but it is doubtful he ever knew me.  He was friendly and was glad I stopped by to chat with him.  Driving away I could only imagine how lonely it must be for him being the only one left of his family, and not to have modern day conveniences that we are all accustomed to.  This image has some softness to it but is barely noticeable in a 11x14 print.  The scan of the negative has magnified this condition and doe not look as good as the original print