If there is one thing I wish I had more of in this blog and collection, it would have to be a little more nature. Since a majority of the objects I end up photographing are right along the street, there really isn't much plant life to capture and play with. Granted this is a bit of an odd regret to have, considering the great finds I've had, but that "struggle" of the natural world and civilized world is one I've always been fascinated with. Even those small examples of nature reclaiming a bit of the urban landscape, like brick walls and poles that are covered in ivy or trees growing in places that they really shouldn't be, intrigue me. The photography collections that focus on abandoned buildings and the aftermath of disasters have always been among my favorite things, but then again I've also always enjoyed sad things. They always seem to capture that mixture of human ingenuity with the simplicity of nature in such captivating ways. Two great examples that I can think of are Shaun O'Boyle's collection from the Eastern State Penitentiary and Gerd Ludwig's collections from Chernobyl. There are so many great examples of this general subject that I can guarantee if you kind of like these two collections you can find one that really moves you just with a Google search. And while I love these types of photographs, I have hesitated attempting them myself. So in meantime, while I look for an easily accessible abandoned site to experiment with, I will settle for little finds like tonight's photo.
Admittedly this isn't a great example of this idea, since there isn't a tremendous amount of plant life surrounding this sticker. I actually know I have a better one sitting in my camera right now, I just haven't gotten around to getting it off there yet. This also isn't really nature recapturing the space, since it seems to be purposeful to some degree by the people who own this garage. But I still enjoy that contrast of the metal fence and the vines as well as the lines that this picture managed to capture. The remnants of the name tag and what I would assume used to be a reflective sticker of some kind give off a little of that abandoned feeling as well. Just enough of a memory to make you wonder what used to be there.
Just a quick reminder that this Saturday is the Art All Night show over in Lawrenceville. So if you enjoy art, which I'm assuming you do to some degree since you're here, I highly suggest stopping by for a bit. It's a unique experience that is worth seeing for yourself. You'll also get a chance to see one of the blog photos in person, which I'm still rather excited by. It's also the end of the month so I'll be putting a few more photos up on my Society 6 page shortly. As always if there's something you want to see on there let me know so I can add it. I hope you get a chance to stop by the show this weekend and until next time sticker fans.
Music plays such a big part in the way we define ourselves. From the genres we listen to on a regular basis to the guilty pleasures that we belt out alone in the car, every song we listen to says a little bit about us and who we are. And I often get the feeling that our generation tends to be a bit more eclectic with the music we listen to than our parents tend to be. I know just comparing what's on my iPod with my siblings' is certainly a trip every time. My one brother will go from Anime theme songs to heavy metal to something happy go luck from the 90s in the space of ten minutes. The other brother's iPod is mainly musicals but I also know that he has a Seether collection and some Taylor Swift on there as well. And while the collection of things my parents will listen to certainly isn't small by any means, we will often shock one or both of them with some of things that we enjoy. I think a large part of this range of interest comes from the way that we found music over the years.
Growing up there really weren't that many radio stations that really focused on playing the current hits. Even today I can really only think of maybe 3 that can be received clearly in that general area with this focus. Granted this estimate is a little skewed, country is about the only genre I generally avoid so I'm sure there were quite a few that played country hits that I wouldn't know. But by any means this is a rather small collection of stations that would come in and they would be the super popular hits mixed in with the usual go to classics. I can't say I really thought too much of it until I hit high school though. I had the things that I listened on a regular basis, which were mostly groups I had found on the radio, and then there were the things that my friends would listen to. Obviously by this point getting your music through the internet was becoming far more common practice, so the mix cds we would listen to during practice or parties definitely started becoming more and more interesting of mixes. You could usually tell who's playlist you were listening to with just two songs, especially when it went from rap to country in one song.
Although I think what kind of woke me up musically were the trips to colleges I made during my summers in high school. After my Freshman year I became mildly obsessed with improving my swimming and managed to convince my parents to send me to a couple of local colleges for a week long swimming camp over three summers. (If I hadn't managed to impress upon you the special form of my nerdiness by this point, I'm fairly certain this is the clincher.) While I don't remember much from these trips at this point, other than the few pointers that got drilled into my technique, I do recall the fact that I would often come away from these trips feeling a bit behind. I would hear all of these songs on the radio there that I never heard at home. Conversations with the other campers would bring up bands and areas of the genres I liked that I wasn't familiar with at all. And while I would try to find some of it when I got home, I generally never remembered enough to successfully find anything. It was an exciting moment when a song I found during these trips would become popular enough to hit my stations and I could successfully listen to it.
Granted keeping up with new music and introducing it to people is generally the purpose of radio stations around colleges. And tonight's sticker is actually the Pitt campus's local station, although I will shamefully admit that I didn't recognize it. To my credit though I had a large enough group of friends with varied tastes in music that I was constantly bombarded with new bands, so listening to the campus station wasn't a priority during college. Looking over the WPTS Radio site though it does seem to follow the music format you would expect. A fair amount of the bigger alt rock groups you immediately recognize, a lot of updates on the various teams stats, and a lot of smaller/local groups to help expand the genres. I listened to the station for a bit during work and I have to admit that I honestly hadn't heard any of it before. Although my main music outlets at this point are Pandora and Spotify so that's not terribly surprising. So even though I have definitely expanded my music horizons over the years, I'm probably always going to be a bit behind the music curve. But then again this does always mean there's usually a pleasant surprise in store for me when I get close to catching up and I can't really complain about that.
Given my general interests and proclivities, you would think I would be into far more things than I am. I really enjoy Gothic literature and classic horror movies. While I wouldn't call myself a true Fantasy fan, I do find the genre fascinating and love the original tales that it stemmed from. I am constantly drawn to the darker and sadder things in life, especially when it's twinged with a teeny bit of humor. So given my tastes, you would think that I would be into the elements that draw heavily on these motifs and tropes. But I really don't do current horror, they tend to rely far too much on the jump scare and fake gore than actual frightening plots. I kind of refuse to watch or read Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead at this point, not because I want to be contrary but honestly they both seem a tad over the top at this point. And I have to say that I generally don't get heavy metal.
While I've never really listened to it, my brothers are fans of certain bands and styles. So I have heard a variety of heavy metal songs, and there a couple of songs I don't mind, I just can't say its ever truly caught my ear. I have found that heavy metal is an interesting collection of tropes though. It tends to draw heavily from fantasy and horror for a good portion of ideas and visuals. I'm pretty certain there isn't a band out there that hasn't used a skull or fantasy element as part of an album cover at some point. Most music draws from other genres and you can hear the classical and traditional rock influences in the sound of many heavy metal bands. I've never understood those bands that ultimately just put lyrics to classical music though, but then again I love to get lost in the sounds of classical music and don't see the need for words. I can certainly appreciate the themes these bands typically sing about (love, death, the search for yourself, etc), I just find that these ideas tend to get lost in the loud and long guitar rifts. There is obviously nothing wrong with this particular style though, to each his own I always say.
If you're wondering where I'm heading with this tangent, the sticker tonight is for an Ohio heavy metal band. Dead Again seems to follow the usual sound of most heavy metal bands, not that I could find too many examples of their original music on their Facebook page. I can't say I was terribly shocked to see that this was their particular style, I mean their name is Dead Again and they had a skull for their sticker logo. Looking through their Facebook page though I saw a photo and quote from the Bride of Frankenstein, which is definitely one of the best classic monster movies out there. And that's kind of what got me wondering about what attracts my attention. Clearly a lot of the things that I enjoy influence these kind of artists as well, so where does the divide happen. What caused my inner Goth to be drawn to the soulful sound of folky Americana over the dark and heavier sound of metal? I can't say I really care to find an answer, I kind of enjoy being a weird combination of things and hard to define. It's just an interesting exploration into what makes people such unique individuals in the end.
I do love those interesting coincidences in life. As you know, I never really look intently at the stickers I'm photographing. I generally just wander around and pause to snap photos of the things that catch my eye. Sometimes it's the actual sticker that gives me pause and other times it's the location that deserves my time. When I look into the stickers later on there are some photographs that end up just working out so well, you'd almost thought I planned it. Granted I'm sure a large part of this should be accredited the sticker placer, who felt this was worth taking the time to mark it, but I'd like to think that a little bit can go to me since I managed to find that angle that works.
I've always been rather fascinated with reflections, whether it's in a mirror or the windows of a building. That idea of seeing the world in a different way, or if you're feeling fanciful seeing a different world entirely. The amount of stories and plot points that I've read or watched over the years that center around reflections is honestly a little staggering. I think it really has to do with the fact that while it is clearly yourself that you see in the reflection, it still feels rather alien. Reflections give you that chance to see how you actually look to others or just a moment of seeing how you fit into the larger scheme of things. They can also distort the truth and your perception of it. So when I came across this sticker, I knew I had to do my best to capture the reflection. I really wanted to try to balance the buildings on the other side of the street, the signs in front of the shop, and the sticker itself. To give a quick snapshot of the Southside that you typically see but rarely think about.
The sticker on the glass is a rather intriguing one. The main part of the image is a woman smoking in a ski mask. While you can't quite make out what exactly she's smoking, it isn't terribly hard to figure out that it has to be weed. Especially since the phrases on the sticker are "heads high" and "kill em wit the smoke." And if you zoom in on the right side of the sticker you can see the site http://www.smokersonlyworldwide.com/. This is a clothing site that provides shirts and hats to individuals who want to "subtly" and fashionably show their support and enjoyment of weed. It's an interesting collection of items but not really my thing. I've never been a weed fan and can't say I've really ever seen the appeal, I'm just boring that way. Obviously I've had plenty of friends who have smoked or still smoke, I just never got into it. Now what I love about the combination of the sticker and the reflection is that idea of distorting perception. I know that weed is often used and portrayed as a way to expand the way you see the world. So I think that by placing this sticker on the window, you create a space to reevaluate the world and how you see yourself in it.
With Easter quickly approaching I don't want to take up too much of your time, especially since I have plenty of things I still have to accomplish before my parents get into town. So I thought I would let tonight's post be a short one in the spirit of the holiday. Well not in the true spirit, no resurrections here I'm afraid to say, but in that vein reminiscent of our childhoods. And while it's not quite as literal as my previous Easter themed post, I think the idea generally still fits. I know I've mentioned many times that I've always felt this project was a bit of a personal scavenger hunt, however it may be more accurate to call it an Easter egg hunt since I admittedly don't have a handy checklist to show me what I still haven't found. Just like those childhood hunts, you have those stickers that are clearly out in the open, in the hopes that everyone can find it and have fun, and then you have those stickers that were hidden to truly challenge you. The ones that are hidden in the cracks or spaces that one normally wouldn't think twice about unless you're purposely searching for it. They are often just as surprising as those plastic eggs filled with money used to be and generally worth that extra bit of effort.
I was walking down Highland on one of my many sticker hunts when I happened to look up and catch sight of this particular sticker. On these hunts I am constantly scanning the streets looking for those glimpses of stickers, especially when it comes to signs and poles. I had been looking up to see if there was anything on the sign in front of it and was about to continue on my way when I happened to see a tiny bit of yellow. I'm pretty sure I actually backtracked to make sure I did in fact notice a sticker behind the sign. Certainly the idea of a sticker being hidden behind a sign isn't that unique of an idea and yet I was rather impressed with the sticker when I found it. I'm not sure it's really conveyed in the photo because of the angle but the sign is pretty far up the pole so that drivers can clearly see it from a distance. Along with the height of the sticker, there is also the fact that it's so well hidden behind the sign that I actually had to step into the street to even be able to capture it. When I find stickers like this one I just have to question how in the world they even managed to get up there. I'm sure ladders have to be involved but how exactly does one go around the city with a ladder inconspicuously. With it's angry yellow eyes and bared teeth it almost gives that impression of spotting an animal that was hidden up in the leaves of a tree. I feel like these kind of sticker finds show a large amount of dedication and pride by the artist and are worth the second glances they garner.
Sorry tonight is going to be a bit of a failure on my part. I really wasted the weekend, not that it's a new issue for me, and didn't really start working on this until after I came back from a trivia night with my friends. And we didn't even win this time, although I think we're about 50/50 at this particular bar which might be a personal best for us. So this is going to be a bit underdone but there are a couple of announcements to make up for it at the end.
I really enjoy the slightly different angle of this photo but it doesn't exactly lend itself to easy research. I have a couple other exposures of this particular railing that unfortunately just give me other stickers rather than more information on the ones that are really visible here. I also know that I've seen this burger sticker many times but I don't seem to have taken any other photos of it. Not that I think it would have helped pull up any information on it, since I seem to be only missing one letter on the sticker. I like the fact that this particular angle gives you a slightly hidden sticker. I really only noticed the sticker on the inside after I stood up from kneeling for my original exposures. I also find it to be an odd combination of things. I mean I think that it's a play on older restaurant advertising but it also seems to be one of those corrupted colloquialisms, like jeet yet. The other really noticeable sticker is the blue girl on the pole. I really like the flowing nature of the sticker and the way it gives that feeling of rebellion. Although that might just be the fact that the red marks on the top of her head reminds me of a skateboard helmet. I'm not really sure what the keywords would be to look it up though. Again it reminds me of a skater but I rather doubt that's the influence behind it. Despite the lack of information on the stickers, I like to think that this photo kind of exemplifies the unique ways this graffiti plays with the way you look at your surroundings.
Wow, that really was half-assed but that's about all I got in me tonight. I guess I'll have to ensure the next one is better to make up for it. Now on to the announcements, well technically it's really only the one. I decided to take a chance and to submit one of the photos from the blog to the Art All Night show that's happening at the end of April. If you haven't been to it yet, I highly suggest it. The show is completely free, for the artists and the patrons, and gives people from all over the area the chance to get their art out there. It's an interesting conglomeration of styles, techniques, and people that honestly needs to be seen to really understand. I went for the first time last year and was truly impressed with the idea behind the show. So I figured that this was a great experiment and worth taking a chance. If you happen to be in the Lawrenceville area at some point between April 29th after 4 PM until April 30th at 2 PM, you definitely should take the time to stop by. It's apparently the show's 20th anniversary so I'm sure it'll be interesting. I'm going to be creating an event on the Facebook page, as a little reminder, and use one of the prints that are available on the Society 6 page but I'm going to keep which post I choose as a surprise. If you're interested definitely stop on by since you get the chance to see a blog photo in person, find out which one I picked, and maybe even run into me.
So I have to admit, I've been putting off sharing this sticker for a while now. Not because I don't like it, I find it really interesting in its composition and an important issue to share. But sharing that issue on here is... well rather daunting and intimidating. How exactly do I distill such a large and poignant topic down to a roughly three paragraph post? What exactly do I have to add to the conversation? Granted it doesn't have to be earth shattering, it is just a simple blog in the end, it's just where exactly do you start. Looking through my collection the other day though, I realized that if I keep pushing it to the side I probably would never share it which would be a shame. I can't guarantee this is going to be brilliant, or that I won't put my foot in my mouth, but here's my brief look into the story behind this sticker.
One of the first things about this sticker that grabs your attention, or at least mine, is the fact that it's a police officer holding the sign. Obviously this is a nod to the presence of police brutality around the country, especially surrounding the African American community, and the recent examples that have hit the news. I wish I could say that there is clearly one particular attack that influenced this political statement but as I found this sticker back in 2016, and who knows how long it had been up before then, there are honestly too many to even try to pinpoint one. Which while this is probably a gross over-simplification of the issue, I feel like the fact I can't just name one is part of point of this sticker. Like #Black Lives Matter, this sticker is looking to pull more attention to the fact that racial inequality is a prevalent issue in society and deserves more attention than the occasional news bulletin. The phrase "criminalize the black community" alone is rather chilling when you think about it. A large focus on any news program's coverage of brutality are the statistics around the amount of African Americans currently imprisoned and the percentage of crime rates that are attributed to them. Often this is used as a justification for the violence that occurred, which really just furthers this idea of criminalizing a community and creating a greater divide.
Stepping away from the larger portrait of the country's discussion around brutality and race, this sticker has much deeper ties to the area. I'm not sure how many of you will immediately recall local controversies from two years ago, but this image of the police officer holding a sign is actually a photo from 2015. On New Year's Eve Police Chief Cameron McLay posed for a photo holding a sign saying "I resolve to challenge racism @ work. #EndWhiteSilence." According to a piece published by WTAE shortly after the photo appeared on Twitter, he had stopped to get a coffee and entered a brief discussion with a group of people there about the issues of racial inequality and injustice. He wanted to show his support on confronting these issues and posed for the photo. This photo ultimately offended the local police union, believing that he was insinuating that the Pittsburgh police were racists. While he did end up apologizing to the union, stating that he never intended to offend them or imply anything, he still felt that this was a cause that needed to be addressed. The controversy did end up making national news though with Fox News and a couple of other outlets doing a brief piece on it that same week. Admittedly this photo was just a blip during his tenure as Police Chief. Chief McLay was hired in 2014 to reform the department and for two years did his best to address the issues he saw. In 2016 he decided to step down, feeling that he went as far as he could and that it was time for someone else to take the reins.
Clearly Chief McLay was a man who wanted to make a difference. His willingness to try and start a discussion about the way racism affects our judgement is in many ways admirable. But clearly for the creator of this sticker, just holding a sign isn't enough. The sticker uses this image of McLay to great effect, creating that clear distinction between what is intended and how it is perceived. The phrase on the sticker harkens back to the sign he held and that idea of New Year's resolutions which tend to be broken quickly. And while he did a lot to reorganize the police department and to raise community awareness, the Post Gazette article I linked above does state that the statistics on killings in the area when he resigned were barely lower than they were when he started. Ultimately this sticker looks to remind people not only of the larger issue from around the country but how this is also still an issue here in Pittsburgh.
There are a lot things that I find fascinating about this project, but one of the biggest elements that keeps me intrigued is the different artistic styles that I come across. It's not really the unique styles of each artist that keeps me excited, although that certainly helps, but finding different styles by the same artist. I find it interesting that the man who did the Obey sticker, which I really should feature soon since I keep bringing it up, also did the Obama campaign poster from 2008. Or that while Chu, another I really need to get on top of, keeps his distinct tag on everything there are still interesting variations to his stickers and graffiti. That ability to change your style to suit the mood of the idea has always been an impressive feat to me. No matter what I'm photographing I do tend to have a distinctive style to it, which can be beneficial but occasionally problematic. I think it speaks highly of these artists' talents that they can be such chameleons with their work and yet still remain distinctive.
Tonight's sticker is another one by the mysterious 9. My first post with the housewife in a gas mask is the main one that I've seen of his. This find is actually the only time I've seen this particular piece though. While both of these stickers share darker themes, post-apocalyptic and wasting your life respectively, their styles are pretty different. Clearly using recognizable elements as bases, he manages to give you impactful images that still convey the impressions of being right out of a magazine and a sign. The simple nature of each one allows the larger theme and idea to shine through yet remind you of other things. As well as these two stickers there are also ones of a cartoon bird and a man with a projector for a head that share this tag. (Sigh, I know this post keeps getting more ridiculous since I keep describing things I've seen but haven't share. Bad me.) If it wasn't for that 9 hidden in each sticker I'm not sure I would have known that they came from the same person.
I know I really shouldn't admit to having favorite artists but 9 continues to be one of mine. His work consistently catches my eye and does admittedly make up a decently sized portion of my collection. It's not only the style that I love though but the ideas he presents. This sticker in particular certainly hits upon a concern that I know has a tendency to freeze me up on a regular basis. I am by no means unique in this fear but I am consistently worried that I have managed to waste a good portion of my life. I admit that I have been rather lost since graduating college, unsure of what to do with my degree and too afraid of taking a misstep along the journey to legitimately pick a path. A lot of my friends and family members have dealt with this fear, so I know I'm not alone in it, but I feel like I've let it paralyze me for a long time. I've been attempting to take steps to remedy this feeling of stagnation, the blog being one of them, and yet seeing this image makes me wonder how successful these steps have been. Obviously there is no right or wrong answer to how I should beat this fear, what will be, will be in the end. I just need to keep using this sticker and others to remind myself that I just need to keep plugging away until I conquer whatever is holding me back.