WES: Time and pay? I don’t know. It is not a new problem. How long did it take Joyce to do Ulysses? Finnegan’s Wake? And what were his returns? I could never be rested within myself without doing this.
Interviewer: What if nobody sees it?
WES: The goal is the work itself, and with any real finality, the artist is never sure if he is or isn’t finished.
Excerpt from Smith’s interview with Philippe Haussmann regarding the Pittsburgh Project, 1957.
In life, Smith never completed his project and only printed and published selected images. The work was edited by Sam Stephenson and published posthumously in 2001 as Dream Street. I love Dream Street and that more of these images can now be seen, but knowing how difficult and personal editing and sequencing is for the photographer, I feel, with no disrespect to Stephenson, that Smith’s essay as he envisioned it died with him.
Other Streets is my Pittsburgh Project. Like Smith, for many years and for many reasons, I was not able to finish it. Perhaps, as Smith notes, it was because I was unsure if it was or was not or even is now or ever will be truly finished. And yes, I too expect no financial return. I too did this to rest something within myself.
Mark F. Erickson is the author of the photobook Other Streets: Scenes from a Life in Vietnam not Lived.