Matt Nemeth

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New Necropolis
, 2016

  • Fell Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery
    Fell Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery
  • Teets Mausoleum, Union Dale Cemetery
    Teets Mausoleum, Union Dale Cemetery
  • Kress Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery
    Kress Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery
  • Brungo Mausoleum, Christ Our Redeemer Catholic Cemetery
    Brungo Mausoleum, Christ Our Redeemer Catholic Cemetery
  • Winter Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery
    Winter Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery
  • Hill Mausoleum, Homewood Cemetery
    Hill Mausoleum, Homewood Cemetery
Fell Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery
Fell Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery

After humans die, it’s only a matter of time. Possessions are dispersed, memories fade, a life’s work forgotten. Eventually, the final people who remember the deceased die themselves. What remains? For those with the resources, it is often a memorial of size and permanence. Tombs, obelisks, statues, and crosses have been built, but the most intriguing is perhaps the mausoleum. The last 300 years have seen the construction of hundreds of private mausoleums dedicated to the wealthy class of individuals and families in Western society. Essentially, it is a house for the dead, and its popularity during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries led to the erection of silent cities. Like many cultural trends in Europe, the tradition of mausoleum commemoration found its way to America where it flourished in unique directions. The romantically designed natural landscape followed as well, leading to the creation of today’s large municipal cemeteries. 

The following photographs document this trend as it exists in the Pittsburgh area. The region was flush with industry during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, thus able to support a wealthy class of cultured individuals. Their addresses have now extended into the afterlife in houses of stone, adorned with ionic columns and funereal symbols. Unlike houses for the living, the mausoleums abide by that virtually universal reverence for hallow ground, nearly impervious to future prospects of demolition. They are destined to stand amid green hills and groves of trees, the modern megaliths of half-forgotten lives.

21 Fire Hydrants
, 2015

If you are not a firefighter or a dog you probably don’t give much thought to fire hydrants. After all, city or suburb, they are everywhere and people don’t question what they think they are familiar with. Yet, I learned something during my fire hydrant hunting exploits that I couldn’t learn from a photography book. First, hydrants are a little like pieces of litmus paper, identifiers of the communities in which they can be found. For instance in a county park, where such utilities are streamlined, you may find dozens of identically shaped hydrants of a uniform color. In the case of North Park in the Pittsburgh area, they are well maintained and many are covered in a layer of fresh crimson paint. 

However, in some neighborhoods closer to the city I noticed a lesser affinity with upkeep. It is common to find ones crusted over with rust or with weathered paint peeling down like a banana skin. There is more individuality among urban hydrants and not because of the varying levels of their sorry state. Some of them are short and round like teapots and some are thin and tall like cacti. They are painted different vibrant colors, not just the standard red or yellow. A majority are two-toned, some even have three colors. 

Is it a result of a diverse and vibrant community that has a similar affect on its physical environment? Not exactly. Fires can be common in areas with many buildings built closely together, like the city. Fire hydrants that pack more of a punch in terms of flow and pressure are often designated by color code so that local fire crews know what will be adequate in different situations. In urbanized areas varying levels of more powerful fire hydrants are built to combat more powerful fires. Interestingly though, they still tell you something. 

Scenes From McKnight Road
, 2013

McKnight Road is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. It is adorned with restaurants, gas stations, hotels, churches, drug stores, car dealerships, law offices, a dozen shopping centers, and two shopping malls. Thousands of cars pass along it on any given day of the year. At night, the road is a shining beacon of capitalism. Colored neon lights and giant billboard signs are stacked along both sides, competing for the attention of drivers’ eyes and beckoning them to their parking lots. 

However, McKnight Road is an artery of transportation just as much as it is a strip of commercialism. During the evening and into the night, many businesses, desperately lit to attract customers, sit in vain. The drivers during these hours are on their commute to home from work in the city or across town. Some snag the chance to fill up their gas tank or pick up a burger at a drive-thru, but so many businesses sit quiet and empty as the loud revs of engines and quick flashes of headlights fly past only feet away. Most of these buildings are closed, but their large vivid lights remain on into the night perhaps trying to get that last message into your head before a new day.