While growing up, I spent much time in McKeesport, the Mon Valley town that my mother is from. I would hear her stories of what the broken valley towns were once like. My mother and her siblings passed on their memories of growing up there in prosperous and hopeful times. When I returned to Pennsylvania at the beginning of 2009, I sought a better understanding of the unique relationship between person and home.
Hope has a powerful impact on the building of home. The thought constructs an unfaltering dream that will hold together longer in memory than will stay standing in brick. The photographs in this series focus on the subtle traits and visual metaphors found in the stark reality of a region built on working class ideals and memories of promise.
The changing reality of the American Dream comes through in the uncertain but strong manner teens carry themselves through their bleak surroundings, the enduring pride of older generations, the ways in which the natural world is retaking its hold on depleted land and the landscapes that once helped these towns to prosper but now restrict them to decaying isolation. The people of the Monongahela Valley have endured the decline of their communities while holding tightly to the ideals passed on through generations, helping to build a strong sense of self and home through a connection to the past.
The American Dream, carried on the backs of every new immigrant, mined the coal, built the towns and worked in the steel mills that lined the Monongahela River. The relics of those expansive sites and bustling streets are now desolate shells of lost prosperity.
–This post was contributed by Ross Mantle, a New York based photographer who hails from Pittsburgh.