One day in August of 1950, two automobiles rumbled shoulder-to-shoulder on the Boulevard of the Allies and prepared to embark on what The Pittsburgh Press dubbed “a strange race” through the city’s streets.
The event was a gimmick by the newspaper to convince drivers to slow down. Driving like a speed freak yielded no benefits, the Press declared. This competition between a vehicle traveling faster than posted limits and a second that was obeying traffic rules would provide proof.
The fast driver was Stewart Love, a Press photographer who, at least on this day, sped past other vehicles, “squealed around curves and violated every speed limit.” Love finished the course a bare two minutes ahead of the “slow” driver who conformed to all rules of the road, thus confirming the newspaper’s suspicions that careening through the city at breakneck speed did little other than raise everyone’s blood pressure. Still, we like to think Love enjoyed the experience.
Love was a technically skilled photographer who produced beautifully constructed pictures for Roto magazine from the mid-1940s until his retirement in 1979. And he may have been a bit of a daredevil.
In addition to the “strange race” story, we found in our archives this picture of Love leaning on the edge of the Gulf Building in 1956. By then his willingness to venture to high locations and climb into airplanes had earned him the title of the newspaper’s “aerial” photographer.
Love produced some of his most spectacular work in 1949. In April of that year, the Press announced the publication of a series of “pictures-from-the-sky” showing the city from the vantage point of an airplane.
Aerial photographs are routine today — we’re accustomed to seeing Pittsburgh from all angles in postcards, television commercials, movies, Instagram feeds and Facebook posts. But in the late ‘40s, such photographs must certainly have been considered fresh and unusual. Indeed, Love’s aerial pictures were published as full-page images, allowing readers to view them in great detail.
The series launched Sunday, April 29, with a picture of Oakland and a brief description of the series. An illustrated logo attached to the weekly feature showed a photographer (presumably Love) clinging precariously to the tail of a small airplane while aiming a camera. The photographer’s hat sails away in the wind.
Throughout the summer, Press readers were treated to aerial views of the Golden Triangle, Oakland, Mount Washington, Morningside and the South Side. On a few occasions, Love ventured outside the city to photograph places like McKeesport and Duquesne.
A portion of Love’s work remains in the Post-Gazette archive as a collection of large format black-and-white negatives. We’ve scanned those negatives and included them in this post, along with some other aerial images we found from that era.
Love’s pictures depict Pittsburgh before its Renaissance. The Point appears crowded and industrial, the North Side hemmed in by railroad tracks. Smoke from the J&L steel mill rises in the background of several images.
We’re leading the post with a color picture of Oakland, shot by Love in 1950. The image is surprisingly sharp, vibrant and smog-free, considering it depicts one of the most heavily industrialized cities in the country. Trees sprout between university buildings, hospitals and houses. Lawns appear green and plush. The picture was shot, according to the Press, “on one of the clearest days Pittsburgh has ever had.”
Love, it seems, was more than just fearless. He also had a great sense of timing.