The cassette tape warbles a bit as a folk song plays while riding along the ridges of South Western Pennsylvania in my friend’s used Toyota pick-up. Slightly hungover from the night before; caffeinated, and a little stoned from this morning. Heartbreak and redemption, headaches and euphoria mix together as we head down into the valley towards a river that is overlooked by many and sought out by others.
One translation, among the few that have been preserved, of the word Youghiogheny (Yawk-uh-GAIN-eee) is four streams. Yough meaning four, henné meaning stream. At least that’s what the books and journals say. It’s always hard to determine the accuracy of a translation that has been affected by the passage of time and the lens of imperialism.
I’ve been along those four streams, and I’ve seen how they come together; losing their specificity yet retaining what is inherent to each – creating something larger and joining places and people that would otherwise appear disjointed and separate.
The river, the towns and the forests which comprise this watershed have served important roles in my life. The river provided water to the elementary school where I spent my childhood. The hills, valleys and folklore of gave me reason to leave the borough where I spent my adolescence; exploring the neighboring counties on late night drives. As an adult, I find sanctuary along the trails, hiking through the woods which border the river. I return again and again and reflect upon what this river represents and what is has meant, in many different ways, to the people of this region – past and present. It is through this shared history that I feel ever more coupled to this place
Articulation of place and it’s fundamental qualities.
Translation, its visual counterpart, and the influence of time and context.
The history of exploitation and erasure.
My personal connection to this place and how I’m implicated in all of this.
These are also four streams that I have followed; they meet in Laurel Mountain Laurel.
Laurel Mountain Laurel is available now through deadbeatclubpress.com
Jake Reinhart (b. 1979) is a photographer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a B.A. in Sociology and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Born and raised in Southwestern Pennsylvania; his work is informed by the region’s history and explores the importance of place in relation to the formation of identity and community.
His book Laurel Mountain Laurel was published by Deadbeat Club Press in 2021. Throughout all of 2020, his photographs were featured in a weekly column for ZEITmagazin titled Pittsburgh 2020, as well as published in the Spring / Summer ZEITmagazin International edition. His project Where The Land Gives Way was published in 2017 and has been promoted by Collector Daily, The Heavy Collective, Photo Emphasis, Lenscratch, Slate, and Booooooom.
In 2018, an excerpt from Laurel Mountain Laurel was exhibited at Northern Kentucky University in conjunction with the FotoFocus Biennial. His photographs and zines are held in institutional collections such as: Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Research Library; London College of Communication Special Collection; RISD Fleet Library Special Collection and PNC Bank, NA. Corporate Art Collection. He was previously awarded a Flight School Fellowship in 2017 and the Pittsburgh Filmmakers emerging photographer grant in 2015.
He served on the board of directors at the Silver Eye Center for Photography and worked with the Magenta Foundation as their regional coordinator for the Pittsburgh Area.