Liberty Ave. + Millvale Ave.

Notes On Site:


  • Concrete is old/crooked/full of pot holes
  • Trashcans/mailbox/newspaper stand are all graffitied
  • Traffic Lights are old-fashioned: hanging on single wire
  • There are no walking signals for pedestrians trying to cross the street
  • West Penn Hospital is an older building, but obviously added onto and well-kept
  • There are many cars parked on the street
  • Signs about littering and consequences
  • Bus stops all around ( suggesting it’s populated area)
  • Buildings are crammed together, older architecture, but each building is unique
  • Trash on street and sidewalk
  • There is housing nearby (next block)


  • The area is busy, constant sounds of cars driving by
  • Smell: local diner burgers and hot dogs, smoke


  • People who are walking by have varying economical standings
  • Kids frequently walk past
  • Nurses and Hospital workers commuting to & from hospital

Day 1 : First Impressions (08–30–16)

We walked up to the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Millvale Avenue and the first thing that I see is a clashing of worlds. On one side of the street is a large hospital, the facilities obviously built some years ago, on the other, a worn sidewalk and a few “mom and pop” shops.

I began observing the side of the road with the small shops. As I looked closer, however, I noticed a lot more about this intersection than a few buildings. Perhaps one of the first things to pop out to me was how old the concrete sidewalks appeared to be. There were many pot holes and patch-ups; it wasn’t smooth walking. I also noticed litter showered around the area, whether it be a discarded coffee cup, or someone’s crumpled up napkin. As I moved my eyes upward from the ground it was hard to miss the graffiti-ed trashcans, UPS mailboxes, street lights, and newspaper stands. Each had a different signature, or piece of art spray painted on it. There were street signs warning against littering, also marked with graffiti. I soon realized that this area was not particularly a wealthy one.

While observing this area I saw children, and a school bus full of noisy kids returning home from school, suggesting that this area was close by a school. And though the area was populated with bus stops, bike racks and street parking, hinting towards a populous area, the intersection had no walking signals for pedestrians. I soon began to see that this area is probably not supported financially. The people walking around this area seemed to have varying economical standards as well. While one women walked by in her clean nike shoes (obviously commuting), another two young construction men casually walked into the local diner. Most people weren’t at the intersection for pleasure, but rather as a means to a destination: commuters.

As I continued to look and think about this place I smelled the hot dogs and hamburgers being grilled at the “Dogs ‘N Burger Shoppe” where locals noisily chatted with the waiter through open doors. I also smelled smoke as a women lit up a cigarette as she waited for the bus. The cars were loud, occasionally honking.

One of the most interesting aspects of this area is how the street is in constant repair, but never newness. The road is patched up, the electrical box repainted, the street poles reinforced… all these details tell a story about how the area, though used often, isn’t maintained as it should.

… (to be continued)

Day 2: More Observations (08–31–16)

Today we went back to the intersection of Liberty & Millvale Ave. to capture the area on camera. After going back to this area again I was able to soak up more about the area and what set it apart from other locations. After returning I realized just how many commuters used this intersection to make their way to and from home, work, and school. People are constantly walking past, or waiting for the bus. I also noticed that there are many modes of transportation available to people at this intersection, making it a central location for those trying to get places. For instance, there were bus stops, public bike services, and road parking.

After visiting each side of the intersection I also perceived a huge difference of upkeep between the local massage shops and the West Penn Hospital. When I moved from one side of the road to the other, I was shocked at how distinct the sides were. While one side was littered and worn down, the hospital side was newly paved and full of signage warning against smoking and littering. In the same way, the cars traveling past ranged from worn down Camri to polished Mercedes Benz. Again, while some people walking by were of low income, others were obviously well off. The colliding set of characteristics at this intersection created a interesting dynamic.

Day 3: Focused Photographing (09–02–16)

During my third trip to my intersection at Liberty and Millvale I had a totally different experience because I had 1) a more focused idea of what I wanted to accomplish and 2) I was in a hurry. Unlike my previous visits, I knew what I wanted to capture through my photograph and how I would later translate that photograph into a layered paper cut project. Within the photograph I wanted to capture…

  • The eclectic shops, homes, and various buildings surrounding the intersection
  • The actual intersection including the traffic light and crosswalk
  • People in commute
  • Cars/buses/bikes in transit

These aspects of the photograph, I believe, accurately describes the area and how it is unique to others in Pittsburgh.

Besides having a clearer idea of what I wanted to accomplish during this trip, my visit to Millvale and Liberty was unique in that I was in a hurry. I decided to take a bus to the intersection (bus 54) and it turns out that this bus only comes about half an hour, so right after I got off the bus I checked my Transit app to see when the next bus would arrive to bring me back to campus. The app said 8 minutes, so I visited each corner of my intersection, took pictures, and hopped on the bus. This experience, though not ideal for studying the area, actually enlightened me more about the busy intersection. Rather than acting as a random outsider taking pictures, like my previous visits, during my third visit, I felt like I was a part of the area. I too had an agenda and a place to be like the many others on their way to work, home, or school. I got a better idea of how people used this area, and in what ways it did or didn’t accomplish it’s purpose. I enjoyed being able to experience the area as a local of some sorts.

This is the image I ended up deciding to use. I like the movement of cars and people; I also like the unique building structures.

First Draft

Second Draft : Crit

Today we had our second draft due of our white-on-white paper cut intersections and here are some things that I learned through seeing others work and hearing from our professors.

  • Make sure that your composition has some “eye rest” or breathing room. Sometimes adding detail will actually hurt your work.
  • Think about how you construct and layer your work (diversion) & how much shadow you create through that layering. It could be distracting if there is too much shadow.
  • Think about surfaces and their relationship to the rest of the composition. Even if it is the pavement, it may be too elevated and give the wrong impression
  • Is the composition communicating what you wrote about on Medium? If not, what needs to be changed?
  • It’s OK to add and take away from your picture in order to send the right message.

What are some changes I think I need to make?

After the crit I’m at a loss for what I should do. I feel that right now my composition is just average. Yes, I think it communicates commute and a bustle, but it seems bland to me. The buildings don’t pop out in any way (even with the extra detail), and the cars are distracting. I don’t know what I should do now to fix this.

Third Draft: editing white on white

Even though it was not required, I decided to redo my white-on-white composition for the third time. I was unhappy with the construction of my work. I also felt that I could add more detail to make the composition for pleasing to the eye. I also wanted to try this composition using a different method of cutting. This time, I decided to trace the photo two different ways. The first was the background buildings and the second were of the foreground details such as the people and light posts. I scanned both traces and printed them out several times. When I wanted to cut out any part of the composition, I put the traced paper over the Bristol paper and cut out each piece. Something I have also learned at this point is to always remember to change my blade periodically.

Gray Scale

Now that I have done my white on white composition, I am moving on to gray-scale and I need to figure out how I want to portray my intersection with this new aspect of the project. After seeing the sample pictures during class, I think that I want to organize my intersection based on the depth of the photo. Thus, I want to have a dark to light concept. Hopefully by doing this, my composition will not look as flat. Also, I want to try to add more layering and detail to my windows and building structures. Right now I struggle with knowing how much/little detail I should add. I want mine to be simple, but at the same time not boring either.

Gray Scale + Color

We were introduced one more aspect of the project which is to replace one gray tone with a color. This color should be used to highlight a certain aspect of your composition. After looking at the colors we had to choose from, I was immediately drawn to a grayish-blue, so I decided to use that color as my accent. I decided to highlight the buildings in the foreground and the street poles. I want to show more depth than I did in my gray scale.

Final Photos (09–19–16)

I am happy with the