Matte Braidic’s Faceburgh

“The face is what one goes by, generally.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


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Matte sits at sidewalk coffee shop tables with his dog and takes pictures of people. Later he crops them, adds a watermark, and uploads them to Facebook. To a portfolio page he’s created.

He lives in Pittsburgh. The name Faceburgh made sense. A friend of his designed the logo using Facebook’s font and Steeler’s colors. He watermarks each photo with it.

Matte used to just people watch. Then he got a DSLR camera. He challenged himself to take a thousand pictures, to get better at taking pictures. He took pictures of what he liked looking at. People.



untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


If you haven’t spent time in Pittsburgh, its a peculiar small-town city made of neighborhoods. Each its own little world. Oakland, college & frat kids & sometimes hippies; Squirrel Hill is jewish with good middle class families, the kids busy not getting into trouble; East Liberty’s working class black vitality; Shadyside is kinda gay and has had a little work done; Bloomfield, mixes Italian with southeast Asian immigrants and yinzers; you can buy Pierogies from the Russian Orthodox church in the South Side flats and Polish Hill is, well, Polish old ladies and also hipsters drinking their favorite cheap beer at Gooski’s, etcetera, etcetera.

I lived in Pittsburgh for eight years. Now I watch that city’s days pass from my perch in Chicago. Facebook sends me invites for nights at the Shadow Lounge and Brillobox. Twitter snapshots the gorgeous profile those hills and rivers give as friends head to and from work, or go out on the town.

Matte’s Faceburgh project windows me into the places where I used to wait, write, read, think, do laundry, coffee, live. I play detective games in my head. Here’s the South Side, that must be in front of the Beehive, check out the cobblestones behind that guy. Ah, that’s where all the buses line up in Oakland, that’s a lot of students. This feels like Bloomfield’s afternoon light, in front of the Crazy Mocha. The same Crazy Mocha where Melissa posted that someone collapsed from a heroin OD out front yesterday. Yeah, that’s my small town concern showing. That’s how place weaves itself into you even though you’re half asleep, chasing ideas boys the next cup of coffee poem performance or opportunity to show your work.



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“He could almost hear these faces telling them why the existed, why they’d been saved. Can there be anything more profound, more satisfying, more curious, Galip thought, than a photograph that captures the expression on a person’s face?” ~ Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book

When browsing through the photo galleries on Facebook, I read expressions. How do his subjects connect to him through the lens? What argument, if any, do they make with being photographed?

Every time I consider Matte’s photos, I think about our society and the culture of surveillance. Perhaps we don’t get pissed at surveillance because we have already consented to it, or because we can’t see the cameras. Or because the public behavior of photographing strangers is ‘for our own good’, ‘for our safety’.

Some of Matte’s subjects flip him off, make some other gesture of ‘opting out’. He takes the picture anyway. Legally, he’s permitted. We don’t own the rights to our own faces. We don’t own the rights to other people’s point of view, of us. Perhaps that’s the button Matte hits with some of his subjects, when they react by confronting him. He reminds them of what they are vulnerable to – the unknown vision of themselves had by the Other behind the camera.



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His tagline is “Our history of Pittsburgh, one face at a time.” Place as setting for all the stories written in the hearts of those who live there. Place as third character in any paired relationship.

The interactivity of his process, inviting audience through the social media portal, invites a cynical yawn but is, simultaneously, effective. Matte needed to select a small group of photos for possible print publication. He did so by inviting Facebook friends to vote. As I browsed through, making my picks, I got to see who amongst my peers shared my likes. Curiously, I shared the most likes with another woman who had left Pittsburgh a few years ago (shout out to Mo Modono).

I’ll leave you with the Facebook album view of Matte’s most recent photographs. And, of course, the link.



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Matte Braidic’s Faceburgh :

Local Film : Blanc De Blanc

Local director Lucas McNelly and his team took a two-week filmmaking challenge and created an intimate poem of a film. I’d love to tell you the story; this would, of course, ruin the viewing experience for you. An unlikely love story between Jude (Rachel Shaw), a young ER nurse working at UPMC Shadyside, and Dave (Jason Kirsch), a stranger without a past who synchronicity brings into her life.

Pittsburgh is the third party in the relationship. The informal visual intimacy we Pittsburghers experience day to day in our neighborhoods are echoed in shots of Shadyside, downtown, the Roberto Clemente Bridge. Cinematographer David Eger captures Pittsburgh’s neighborhoody depth of field in precisely-framed, close, yet relaxed shots.


blanc de blanc : still

Blanc de Blanc is a rare thing, a nesting-box film that succeeds. Its about love stories and process of relationship itself as much as it is the narrative that unfolds in Jude’s life. I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch it privately, to test it as hard as any one tests a suitor.

I found Jude’s lack of tests for Dave an exquisitely unbelievable aspect of the plot. My unbelief is, I think, precisely the point – exactly what I needed for the larger functions of the film to become clear. Within the narrative, the love story unfolds with very real moments of struggle and intimacy.

Jude argues with her belief in the possibility of the relationship in a way that is very real, I think, in our own couplings and uncouplings. It is our belief in the very possibility of it that gives any relationship its legs. Lose that belief, and lose the relationship.

Depth of field again … highly detailed moments contrast with the larger visual & poetic structure making an extraordinary piece of work, regardless of production time. McNelly establishes Dave’s character through a short series of images, a brief set of details that open the film. There is exactly enough there for us to struggle with the ambiguity of him – the ambiguity allows a lover’s projections of character; the ambiguity provides fuel for the audience to argue with Jude and Dave’s choices in the way we would argue with our partners; the ambiguity found in poetry.


blanc de blanc : still

Very well-acted – watching the actors dissolve into the story was a pleasure. Their work resonates with ordinary life in just the right way. My only quibble : sound design. I’d love it if the musical presence took a back seat. Perhaps the constant audio presence is meant to create the sense of closeness that the characters are enduring in their shared environment. Perhaps it points to the persistent unreality of their relationship. The music felt too close to the dialogue. I wanted a little more room, the music pushed a little farther back. Give the visuals a little space. But, that’s just my aesthetic talking.

McNelly’s been getting a fair amount of attention for the quality of the work here, particularly given the brief production time. I’ll forego the pile of links and instead send you to the horse’s mouth –

I certainly hope he’s able to line up some of the non-traditional screenings in town to support the film. At an hour and seventeen minutes, its at tightly-edited piece worthy of a few opening short films and a lot of audience.

Keep an eye on where this one goes. Its a gem.

guns & ammo : an animation

i created this video originally for a performance artist’s one-woman show in 2007. the animated gun motif is one that i’ve used since 2006. it is a potent symbol for violation of will and defense of same, this hand-held machine used only to maim or kill others.

i revisited it today because someone in my town shot and killed three police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call. Wrote an essay about the nesting boxes of powerlessness regarding domestic violence for The New Yinzer. I used the animation for an illustration.

You can read the essay here

as i wrote when i posted this animation to youtube …

what a lethal illusion, the allure of the gun & its ammunition. today some people in my town spent a lot of ammunition at each other. some of them died. i get extremely frustrated by our culture’s inability to deal with our incivility in any other way than with violence.

so i make animations. isn’t it beautiful, this illusion that a gun or some immediate violence (pull that trigger!) will solve those problems for you?

but they don’t. it just keeps going.