Youngstown: Descent into Darkness

My friend Deb over at Youngstown Moxie found this great photography project on rustbelt cities created by freelance photojournalist Sean Posey of San Francisco. His family left Youngstown in the 80s and now he’s putting together a fine art/documentary project that will look at Youngstown and other areas of Michigan and Pennsylvania as it considers the rustbelt and the effects of de-industrialization on these communities. I love the slide show (the images of disintegration, decay, nature reclaiming a once settled and extremely populated region, the abandonment left in the wake of the 80s, are the sort of images I tried to collect through words when my characters Adam and Jamie come into Youngstown toward the end of One for Sorrow–and by the way, for readers of the book, the photo of the church in this slide show is the church that Adam and Jamie squat in when they reach town) and the Bruce Springsteen song is a perfect match for background music. But I’ll just crib from Deb and you can follow the link to the site to see for yourself. Thanks for finding it Deb!

Odd how things work around here. A friend of mine sent me a link to a slide show created by Sean Posey and as I was looking through the photos I recognized a church that another friend of mine, Chris Barzak, had written about in his book One for Sorrow. The church is located by YSU and I’m told that it is was the first church in the area. It is in poor condition and I would love to see the building saved. However, that is a story for another day.

I want to share with you the slide show that depicts our ruins in all of their glory. In the decay there is much beauty. I,for one, believe that by looking and perceiving the ruins through a lens of creativity, new birth will come to Youngstown. Not only has Sean Posey captured the beauty of the place, but he has somehow managed to imbue his photos with the emotional strength and courage of the people who reside here though people are are not his subjects, and are not within the frames of the photographs. Click here to view the show.

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7 responses

  1. One for Sorrow の教会(きょうかい)を見(み)せてくれてありがとう! 廃墟(はいきょ)には、人(ひと)の歓(よろこ)びと哀(かな)しみの足跡(あしあと)があるね。だから、壊(こわ)れていても、錆(さ)びていても、見(み)る者(もの)を惹(ひ)きつける。

  2. A few comments on Messiah Holiness (Welsh Congregational Church). It is not the first church in Youngstown, but the oldest existing church building in the city. The church has sat vacant since suffering a fire. Messiah Holiness had a small congregation, mostly family members. There was an effort among some people in the community to preserve/rehabilitate the building a while back.

  3. Thanks for the facts on the church, Mark! I remember when the efforts to rehabilitate the building were going on. That was probably about six years ago or so, because I was in grad school and would drive by the church every day coming or going to YSU. I was also just then writing One for Sorrow, and though I hadn’t reached the part where the kids come into Youngstown and move into that church, I knew that they would. I remember wishing I could get into the church and see what it looked like on the inside, and then one day, like a gift, the doors were open, and people were going in and out of it, and I stopped and they let me come in and see the place. So it really was a gift, because I got real details to use when I described it in the book. I wish it could be brought back to life again, as something or other, but I still love it as it is too.

    Which is probably odd, like how Nin loves Youngstown in all of its broken-ness. I totally understand that feeling, odd as it is. There’s beauty in broken-ness too. I wouldn’t have known that as keenly as I do now if I hadn’t have come here myself for college and lived in the city and discovered how true that is. Of course, I do hope for it to get better, too. But I also hope some of the broken-ness can be preserved in some way, too. I suppose maybe that’s one of the reasons why I wrote the book, to collect some of what I’ve seen here over the years.

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