Forbes and Murray Observations


I arrived at around 5:30 pm, and one of the first things I noticed was that the streets were very busy, both with people and cars. Almost everyone that I observed was walking quickly and with purpose. Three out of the four corners of the intersection were commercial stores and the area seemed to be centered around retail. Despite this, on the fourth corner, there was a church, and slightly down the street, a Synagogue. This half of the intersection seemed to be the start of a more residential area, but I didn’t really venture far from the designated corner.

the side of the intersection where the church and Synagogue were located, and the end of the commercial area
the Sixth Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh (within the context of the area)

All of the buildings appeared to me to have been built recently based on the (apparent) cleanliness of their exteriors, which varied in material, but all looked modern in style. The entire area was also relatively clean-looking; the only litter that I saw was the occasional cigarette butt. There was essentially no green area- excluding the several-meter perimeter of the church- but there were a few thin trees that were surrounded by rectangles of dirt and sometimes small bits of grass within the outer edge of the sidewalk.

About half to two thirds of the people I observed in the area seemed to be college-aged, and I actually ended up recognizing a few students from CMU.

As a result, I felt very isolated being a quiet and still observer in the presence of so much movement. For example, a large group of people were sitting on the steps of the church, which happened to be right next to a bus stop, waiting for a bus. I sat there for a while in order to take some notes and continue observing the area, and it was a very strange feeling when the bus that everyone was waiting for came, and I was left completely alone on the previously crowded steps. However, in the next few minutes, an almost equally large crowd gathered.


On my second trip to the corner, it was around 3:00 pm. I thought that this might impact the level of business, as 5:30 is right in the middle of rush hour. However, I noticed an equal, if not greater, amount of activity than there was the previous day.

The intersection was very large and for the first time, here, I knowingly observed what I have heard called the “Pittsburgh scramble:” where all of the lights turn red and all of the crosswalks white, and pedestrians can cross any/all ways while all of the cars are stopped at the light.

An additional observation that I made this time was on the abundance of signs and advertisements on the streets. While I didn’t think of this the previous time, this is definitely a factor that enhanced my feeling of being in a crowded, commercial area.

Based on many aspects of the area, especially, that the architecture of the church appeared much older than the rest of the architecture, I also came to the conclusion that the church was built earlier than the rest of the street, including all of the stores, but that it had been refurbished in some way in order to remain so pristine- looking and to fit in with the clean and well-maintained environment.

close-up of the church and the steps


This time instead of going in the afternoon I went at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. I expected it to be less busy, and it kind of was, but there were still a decent amount of people and cars around. Even when i was leaving at around 10:00, more people were present than half an hour earlier, including a long line of people waiting in line to eat at “Pamela’s.” It did feel less busy because people were in less of a rush, but I was surprised by there being so many people. Even though there wasn’t that drastic of a difference between the population on a weekend morning vs. a weekday afternoon, the demographics were very different. There were hardly any people who looked college-aged, and there were a lot more families and older people.

breakfast line


After getting feedback on my original composition, I decided that I wanted my second composition to be different, so I went back to my intersection to take new photos. The past two times that I went, I hadn’t gotten a memory card for my DSLR camera yet, so I was just using my phone to take photos. I don’t think that this really effected the quality of my work, since I was just focusing on composition, but this time, using a professional camera, the act of taking photos in public was very different. I was conscious of the fact that most people who usually wouldn’t have even glanced at me were noticing me. More people talked to me and tried to avoid being in the frame of my photos or apologized if they thought they were in the way. It made me think of this area kind of differently and even though the purpose of my trip to the intersection was to take new photos because I was not satisfied with my old ones, I actually gained a somewhat new/different perspective of Forbes and Murray as an area.

my first composition


For my second composition, I realized that I tend to oversimplify the scene of the photo, so I chose a pretty complicated photo knowing that it would remain visually interesting in a simplified version. Although I had experience, my method for cutting out the pieces was more or less a trial-and-error process. I made a few mistakes and it probably took longer than it needed to but overall I definitely think it was an improvement from my first composition.


One of the biggest things that I took away from the discussion of everyone’s work was that one piece of information that is seemingly extremely small — such as the flip of the girl’s hair in Jacob’s piece — can completely change the meaning of the piece as a whole. In response to this idea, I have begun to think more about my own choices in what to include and not include from my photo and how critical these can be.

This also relates to the idea of clearly communicating objects in a scene in order to effectively translate the feeling of the area into what we are creating. If the composition or the way that things are arranged is not clear and the viewer cannot understand what is going on, they also are not going to be able to take away what was intended.


My strategy in making the greyscale composition was essentially to use the different tones to represent the actual colors of the different objects. Since I knew I was going to have to make the composition a third time, this time I created stencils for the different shapes so that I wouldn’t have to re-figure out the shapes of everything. I did this first, and then I assigned the colors to each shape. For the most part I was able to have each shape be wholly one color, but sometimes I had to split them up.



I decided to use a mustard color to replace the darker middle gray value. They are similar tones so I thought that it would kind of preserve the appearance of my greyscale composition. I changed a few minor details from my second to third composition but overall they were very similar and my prediction about the color keeping the appearance of the greyscale was correct. Despite this, I think the color changes the mood of my composition and accurately reflects the mood of the intersection.

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