Half a century ago, Old Forge was a small thriving coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania on the banks of the Lackawanna River. Its inhabitants were predominantly Italian immigrants and first- and second-generation offspring. I was raised by a large extended family with a strong cultural and ethnic identity, surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in close proximity. The streets and sidewalks were filled with the activity of business and school, church and community events; festivals, football games and family celebrations were gatherings where relatives and friends socialized. Everyone knew each other and looked out for each other.
After leaving thirty-five years ago, the first time I walked around the town with the intent of making pictures, I noticed immediately how stark, sterile and strange it seemed. No one was on the streets; porches and yards were empty even though it was summer; playgrounds, empty lots and shops were vacant, devoid of children laughing and playing, teenagers idling about and people shopping. It seemed to be a lost town, forgotten in the wake of its defunct coal-mining industry nearly forty years ago. I wanted to discover once again the people who populated the town, how its people lived, what remained and what was lost, and perhaps what I had never known while growing up.