In 2009, after more than 20 years away, I began spending time in Reading, PA. My father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I returned frequently to help with treatment. On breaks from the routines of care I wandered, revisiting childhood hangouts. In the 2010 census Reading was declared the poorest city in America, and its decline was visible in its shuttered businesses and factories, its foreclosed and abandoned houses, its furtive and quiet streets.
After my father died, I kept returning. Reading wasn’t really mine by this time, or I a part of the city’s social fabric, yet I still knew the city’s rhythms. From 2011 to 2017 I walked nearly every street. At first without purpose or destination and guided by memory, I began after a time to photograph systematically: houses, facades, storefront windows, alleys. The city was slowly becoming rural, as weeds and trees filled vacant lots, as residents cultivated backyard gardens. I visited the parks and woods and surrounding rural landscapes, seeking sites of colonial-era industry: iron furnaces, lime kilns, stone walls slipping back into the earth.
Wunder Street in South Reading has become for me a metaphor for those years of walking the city. Wunder Street, which connects a park to a graveyard. Wunder, German for wonder; when pronounced with a Reading accent, the words sound the same. Wunder, close to wander. Wunder, with echoes of wend and wind. Wunder, which sounds like wound.
Wunder Street images have been in several group shows, and most recently exhibited at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in 2021.