Photog from U.K. here to document steel heritage
Mark Neville might not have been born in the Pittsburgh area, but the photographer from the United Kingdom is no stranger to the effects of the rise and fall of the steel industry.
As one of 14 artists chosen by Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, to participate in the exhibit, "Factory Direct: Pittsburgh," Neville arrived in Sewickley about three weeks ago to do his part for the show focusing on U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh.
Much of his work over the years has also dealt with the steel industry in Glasgow, Scotland and Corby, England.
Shiner selected Neville of Scotland, along with 13 other artists from Japan, Germany, Scotland, and New York City to participate in the show, which will be on display June 24 through Sept. 9.
Each photographer was paired with a Pittsburgh factory to document for the show, and Shriner also set up living arrangements for them as artists in residence.
"The exhibition explores the intersection of art and commerce, innovation and industry in Pittsburgh, as we were and continue to be a world center of production," Shiner said.
Neville, an award-winning photographer who has exhibited internationally, is living in the Pell family's carriage house in Sewickley.
"It's been great having Mark here. He has a wonderful at ease style that let people feel immediately comfortable," Linda Pell said.
"I think the project will be of interest not only to the people of Pittsburgh but art enthusiasts, as well. It's great to have Sewickley included in a project with such magnitude."
Neville's plans for the project do not include photos of old factories, he said.
"I'm more interested in the legacy of the steel industry, how it made an impact on the town and how so much of the wealth from the steel industry manifested itself in Sewickley with its amazing homes and gardens they built," he said.
"I hope people come up to me and let me know what they think is important to document. I can only guess."
So far, he has taken photos at El Fumador Cigars & Pipes, Sewickley Hotel, various private homes in Sewickley and Sewickley Heights, including the "pink house" at 202 Beaver St.; the Edgeworth Club; and Allegheny County Club.
Neville, who will stay in Sewickley for a few more weeks and also will take photos in other parts of the Pittsburgh area, said he is interested in talking with and taking photos of the Snyder and Jones and Laughlin families.
His assistant for the project is Autumn Hyde of Moon Township, a fine arts major at Community College of Allegheny County who knows the area and can help with the photo shoots.
This is Neville's second visit to the Pittsburgh area. His first was a little more than two ago as the guest of Shriner, who had seen Neville's work in Scotland four years ago, loved what he saw and invited him to be a part of the show.
"Mark is able to capture the face of a nation, a place or a notion better than any photographer working today," Shiner said.
Neville's interest and work with the steel industry didn't just start when he took on the "Factory Direct: Pittsburgh project," he said.
Last year, he completed the book, "Deeds Not Words," which draws attention to a court case in Corby, England, after a steel mill closed in the 1980s. Toxic waste improperly was hauled from the site, and a number of birth defects were blamed on the toxins, he said.
The book, which has photos of the children and their families and information on the proper way to reclaim land and clean up toxic waste, was sent to all 433 local councils in the United Kingdom as a reference guide.
Neville's three-year Port Glasgow Book Project focused on a former ship building center that closed after the collapse of the steel industry. Neville photographed the local community that was suffering from an economic downturn and sent free copies of the the book to all 8,000 homes in the Glasgow area that were the subject of the book
Neville will talk about his Sewickley project and also present a screening of films taken while he was an artist in residence last year in a war zone in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in May at the Warhol. The date will be announced later.
"I'm always looking for a way that my photographs can serve the community they represent," he said.
He said he isn't sure yet how the Sewickley project will fit into that philosophy and said he will have to rely on the community to help him out and provide input.
The pieces at the show will be framed photos, and Neville will present a slideshow, as well.
Neville said he would like to make the project into a book that Sewickley residents would be able to purchase.
He said with all the work he has done pertaining to the steel industry, the Sewickley assignment is right up his alley.
"I feel totally at home here," he said. "I'm tempted to move here."