Pennsylvania’s Mon Valley in Photos

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.

6 Comments

Filed under Art, Headline, The Big Urban Photography Project

6 responses to “Pennsylvania’s Mon Valley in Photos

  1. Wonderful gallery of images

  2. Katy

    These are amazing, thanks for sharing. Love the accordion player and the Caddy.

  3. Sarah Hartley

    Very cool photos!!!!

  4. tonyg

    here’s the guy who did the same/ similar photo study of Buffalo working class. Somewhere in our library we have a B&W study done in the 60’s of Buffalo and the people who build this country.

    http://www.miltonrogovin.com/photobooks.html

    this guy is ~99 or so, and still making images.

  5. Pete from Baltimore

    Firstof all i would like to thank Ross Mantle for posting those wonderful photos. And also thank the commenter tonyg for the link to the photographer from Buffalo NY.

    I have only been to McKeesport twice. There is a bicycle trail that starts there and ends in Washington DC. The first time a friend dropped me off in McKeesport. The second time i rode from Baltimore to York PA and then traveled to McKeesport on the Lincoln Highway.then i returned on the trail

    I think that Maryland is a friendly state.But as soon as i crossed the border into PA i was impressed by how nice the people were. The further west i went , the friendlier they got. Somerset County was especially friendly.
    I remember being told by a bartender near Bedford PA, that mostof th enearby factories had closed except for the Cannondale bicycle factory. I recently heard that this has closed as well.

    Thank you MR Mantle for showing that these communities arent just full of statistics. I live in Baltimore. And our factories have closed as well. and our blue collar neighborhoods have either gentrified or been taken over by Section 8 .
    i really dont think that the people in charge of america realise what we are losing.

    I work as a construction laborer.and its hard to explain to proffessional people the pride i have in what i help build. and its hard to explain to the new getrifiers who move in that although i welcome them, i also miss the people who were priced out of the house that they are moving into.
    Thank you again MR Mantle for showing those photos of McKeesport. I hope to visit agin and hopefully spend more time there exploring Western PA

  6. Woody

    Ross – Very well done! Thank you so much for sharing –
    Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s