Becoming an artist came as a surprise to photographer Aaron Blum. He followed his sister to art school because he figured it was somewhere to start. "I continued to make art from that point on, and sometimes the work was bad," he smiles, "but I loved it and just kept making it."
He went on to earn a BFA at West Virginia University and an MFA in fine art photography at Syracuse University.
Mr. Blum moved to Pittsburgh in 2010 to become education coordinator at Silver Eye Center for Photography on the South Side. He also was excited to begin teaching photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Since then he's added adjunct professor to his resume at several more universities, including Point Park and Carnegie Mellon. He enjoys seeing his students "get it for the first time," he says. "Seeing that process happen is very rewarding, and it happens every semester."
Originally from New Martinsville, W.Va., Mr. Blum photographs the Appalachian range from the perspective of a native who has moved away. His portraits include solidly built frame houses that could use a coat of paint; families comfortably sitting on their porch or living room sofa; the sun rising over the mountains with a large industrial factory in the valley; or an abandoned fire pit littered with beer cans.
"I have always been aware of the views others hold of my home, and my artwork is the product of my exploration of what it means to me to be Appalachian," he says.
Currently his work can be seen in the gallery at Silver Eye. "Continuum: Doug DuBois and Aaron Blum" is the first in a series of shows that explore mentorships and influences in contemporary photography and how this impacts an artist's formative development.
Both artists in this show have selections from recent projects. "My Last Day at Seventeen" by photographer Doug DuBois -- Mr. Blum's mentor and professor from Syracuse University -- shows life on a housing estate in Ireland during the economic downturn. Mr. Blum's "Born and Raised" is a series of portraits of his family and friends, as well as landscapes and interiors, taken in his hometown. The show continues through June 1.