Pittsburgh's always ready for its close-up, area photographers find
From Mt. Washington to the North Shore and every bridge and building in between, Pittsburgh knows how to work it in front of a camera.
“There is amazing diversity in Pittsburgh,” says photographer Dusty Scott. “With its history, there is a little of everything. It has an ever-changing landscape. It is a very majestic cityscape that's as easily recognizable as anyplace.”
Everyone from amateurs to professionals love capturing images of this particularly photogenic city. Several local photographers have made Pittsburgh their primary subject.
Scott and his wife, Val, realized just how much others appreciate images of the city at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, in which they've participated twice.
“That was probably our best festival revenue ever,” Scott says. “We just had pictures of Pittsburgh and were surrounded by photographers from other regions, but what we did in just three days was phenomenal.”
The Scotts attend an annual festival in Harrisburg, where, again, their Pittsburgh photos are popular. Many of those customers are former residents, Scott says.
“Even at Three Rivers, we ended up shipping or having people hand-carry pieces back to Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Florida and Arizona,” he says. “A lot are people who ... were raised here, went to school here and moved to different regions, but their hearts still lie here. They like to have a piece on their wall to show their neighbors and friends. They are great memories for them.”
Other customers are locals who just want an image to remind them of a special moment in Pittsburgh, says Scott, adding that sports stadiums, bridges and barges are popular choices.
“I had one guy who wanted one of a barge and said every day when he'd drive to work, that's what he'd look at, and he wanted one on his wall,” he says.
Father-and-son photography team Alexander Patho and Alexander Patho Jr. came to Pittsburgh in 1982 from Hungary. The elder Patho studied optics in his native country and soon learned he loved shooting architecture, old and new. Upon arriving in the 'Burgh, he loved the mix of historic and evolving elements shaping the city's skyline.
“I love the lines,” Patho says of shooting the city's exceptional architecture.
The pair work out of the elder Patho's home studio in Indiana Township, which once housed a dark room but now is equipped with a high-tech printer and computer. They shoot mostly digital images, which Patho loves to manipulate using technology, making colors more brilliant or adding other effects. Some images look almost animated, such as one image showing the skyline's outline with a neon lining.
Viewers are often vocal when first seeing the images, he says.
“I hear, ‘Wow,' thousands and thousands of times,” Patho says. “I love this, even if they don't buy anything.”
The Pathos prefer to blow up photos to large sizes to showcase the detail. Patho Jr. says his most popular seller is the “classic” Pittsburgh Light Up Night scene of the city showing off its holiday flair. His father's most popular piece is his image of PNC Park.
“There's instantly a fantastic composition in front of you,” Patho Jr. says.
Pittsburgh native Nate Lavezoli, now of Bethel Park, lived in Los Angeles for a decade and says trips back home to shoot Pittsburgh helped him “keep a strong connection of who I was and where I came from.”
“Capturing Pittsburgh also gives me a huge sense of pride, as it does when anyone from here views the skyline,” Lavezoli says, calling the images representative of “the hard-working, blue-collar generations that lived, died and built everything that we come to appreciate about our beloved city.”
People tend to have an emotional response to his black-and-white image of the Civic Arena, he says.
“It was a Pittsburgh staple to all black-and-gold sports enthusiasts, and it lives on through that imagery,” he says.
JP Diroll of Allison Park, a former engineer, started taking pictures professionally several years ago. Having a subject like Pittsburgh, he says, “really adds to (the) desire, exponentially, to get out as much possible.”
He started selling at the Three Rivers Arts Festival three years ago, where “Pittsburgh stuff just moves.”
“Everybody loves it,” he says. “I think it's a pride thing. Pittsburgh has a history of being a blue-collar, hard-working town. People are proud of that.”
From an artist's point of view, the city makes an ideal subject for multiple reasons.
“I like bridges, and I like reflection,” Diroll says. “With Pittsburgh being situated right on the confluence of the three rivers, I can go to the North Shore or the West End lookout or Mt. Washington, and anywhere I go, I get a bridge and a reflection.
“On a nice calm day, when reflection is almost pristine, getting to see the city twice is the icing on the cake.”
Diroll's most popular sellers are shots from Mt. Washington, from the Duquesne Incline and the Duquesne Overlook.
“As a photographer, you have to have it, even if it is a little cliche,” he says. “I have that image in winter, fall, summer and spring, at sunrise and sunset.”
Diroll's favorite spot to shoot is between the Clemente and Warhol bridges on the North Shore.
“It's the best spot to catch that reflection,” he says. “I try to go a little beyond obvious.”
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.