Philadelphia-based photographer Zoe Strauss was drawn to Pittsburgh for a project crafting a collective portrait of the Homestead area for one reason: Homestead.
"Homestead is so important for its labor history, steelmaking history and in how it will continue to move forward," Ms. Strauss said. "It's also important for how it is shifting and changing -- while remaining the same."
To compile photographs for her commissioned, "homesteading" project for the 2013 Carnegie International exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Ms. Strauss will be taking portrait photographs at the Homestead Portrait Studio, 215 E. Eighth Ave., Homestead.
All those who live or work in Homestead, West Homestead, Munhall, or the 15120 ZIP code, as well as all current and retired members of the United Steelworkers are invited to have a free 5-inch by 7-inch portrait done by Ms. Strauss.
The program began this week, and portraits will be taken until 500 are done.
The first 200 portraits will be included in the exhibition at the Carnegie International, which will run Oct. 5 to March 16 at the museum, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland.
The museum will add some of the portraits to its permanent collection.
Ms. Strauss, 43, also will be snapping photographs as she walks the neighborhood; two dozen will be included in the exhibit.
Portrait-sitters will receive free admission to the museum for the International.
Carnegie International was started by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie in 1896, the year the museum opened.
Curated by Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers and Tina Kukielski, the 2013 International comprises four parts: a major exhibition of new international art, playground designs, the museum's collection, and an engagement with the city of Pittsburgh.
The city project includes citywide art projects, an art lending collection at the Braddock Carnegie Library and Ms. Strauss' portraits.
She was invited by Mr. Byers to create a collective portrait of the once-flourishing steelmaking center.
"I saw her recent work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it was one of the most powerful shows of photography I had seen in a long time," he said. "Her work comes out of her relationship to her South Philadelphia neighborhood, and the connections she makes with people on the street. We thought she was perfect for Pittsburgh."
Among the 40 coming for portraits on Monday were Nicole and Lafialla Hollinger and daughter Tyra Jennings, 2, of Whitaker.
Mrs. Hollinger, 32, said she likes area schools, shopping sites and residents and she hopes that by shining a light on Homestead the empty storefronts will be filled.
"It's a great opportunity for people to come together," Mr. Hollinger, 24, said of the project.
Eddie McDonald, 25, of Homestead said he hopes the diversity depicted in the photographs will convey the message that a broad-based community of residents are living and working together to make a difference.
David Anthony Powdrill Sr., 49, of Hazelwood, works in Homestead and arrived for his portrait in suit, tie, derby tweed hat and alligator shoes.
He said he wanted to be part of the project and that his adopted neighborhood has a story to share, which the portraits will tell: "Homestead is still alive and coming back," he said.
Ms. Strauss said the project is especially relevant because "without Homestead, there would be no halls or libraries."
Portraits will be taken weekdays, noon to 2 p.m. for walk-ins and 4 to 8 p.m. by appointment. On weekends, portraits will be taken 10 a.m. to noon by appointment and 2 to 5 p.m. for walk-ins.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: email@example.com.