'The Faces & Voices of Connellsville' being immortalized

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 12:46 a.m.

Michael Sahaida's project, “The Faces & Voices of Connellsville,” is under way at the Carnegie Free Library of Connellsville.

Sahaida, a professional photographer, who specializes in commercial still life, portraiture, editorial and book illustrations, has begun videotaping residents and their accounts of growing up in the city.

His work has been featured in magazines, newspapers, catalogs and books and he has a passion for preserving the rich history of Connellsville.

“I've always been interested in this area because my in-laws grew up here,” Sahaida said. “I've heard many interesting stories. Then, when I read about Connellsville's history, I marveled at its importance during the industrialization of America, the wealth and the significance of this area.”

Sahaida said when he thought about the project, he knew there was extensive documentation about the mining industry and coal and coke. “But I wondered about the recollections of those who were doing the everyday tasks, the women who were going to the store, packing the lunches and so on. There were those who got up every day, went to work, came home and got up the next day to do it all over again, and there were those who had a different kind of attachment to the town on a day-to-day basis.

“Then there was the Canteen,” he continued, “with the many volunteers and their commitment to those who traveled through Connellsville during World War II. There are those who fondly remember the '50s, '60s and '70s when downtown was busy and vibrant. I want to capture the personal stories and memories of those who remember or have been told about those important times,” Sahaida said.

Sahaida's wife is Ann Corrado Sahaida. Her mother's name was Marjorie Craig Corrado. Marjorie's mother was Luella Sparks Craig. Ann's father's name was Albert Vincent Corrado, M.D. His mother's maiden name was Gandolfi. Both of Ann's parents are deceased.

The project is an artistic/historic approach to the residents of Connellsville and their memories of life in the city, he said. The final project will be exhibited at the library in September, consisting of the video interviews and portraits. It will be kept there for all to see.

“I think it will be a wonderful exhibit for the community. So far we have interviewed and photographed five people and the stories and images are fantastic,” Sahaida said.

Karen Macko recently sat for a portrait with Sahaida. She recalled Saturdays at Connellsville movie theaters, packing a lunch and spending the day. Macko also suggested that Sahaida talk to Sylvia Paladino DeMarco, who recalls working in many downtown retail establishments over the years.

More photography and video interviews will take place Feb. 11-13 at the library. Those who would like to make an appointment to be included in this project may contact Sahaida at 412-855-6574 or michaelsahaida@mac.com or CFL Director Casey Sirochman at 724-628-1380 or casey.ccfl@gmail.com. There is no charge. Participants are asked to bring photographs and memorabilia to include on their video.

Sahaida's work has been featured in The New Yorker, Glamour, Self, Bazaar, New York Magazine and House Beautiful. He has photographed musicians, athletes, dancers, artists and actors. An exhibit of his work was featured at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Gallery in 2004.

Nancy Henry is a contributing writer.

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