After the Smoke Clears

In the years after the closing of The Pittsburgh Press, I began visiting small towns and cities hit hard by the collapse of manufacturing. I wanted to know how people who lived in places like Braddock, PA, and Flint, MI,  survived the loss of identity as well as income, something I was struggling with myself. The result is the book, "After the Smoke Clears: Stuggling to Get By in Rustbelt America," published in 2002 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

"A very personal journey through a land that many people have forgotten—the land of closed mills, broken promises, and shattered dreams. I have been there, too, and in his encounters and his photographs, Mellon reminds us all of the price the new economy exacted before it, in turn, went bust."—William Serrin, author of Homestead: The Glory and Tragedy of an American Steel Town

"The stories of everyday working people rarely get told, especially after their industries, their towns, and their lives are consigned to the economic trash heap. . . . As a touching, partly autobiographical journey, After the Smoke Clears also links the industrial past with the ‘post-industrial’ present, raising the specter that the heartbreak in what are often dismissed as rustbelt communities may visit as well workers in the boom businesses of today."—David Moberg, Senior Editor, In These Times

"If there has ever been an adequate visualization of the phrase ‘the salt of the earth,’ it can be found in After the Smoke Clears. . . . Anger, sadness, and dignity speak from every page. . . . Bitter labor strife, the aching loneliness of unemployment, and the disorientation when a way of life collapses. . . . This rich and vital book captures one of the greatest disappearing acts of all time: the eradication of our industrial way of life."—Charles McCollester, Director, Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Labor Relations

"Mellon’s portraits of real people, their words, their looks, their surroundings, are a marvel, combining the eye of the photographer and the ear of a fine reporter."— David Demarest, editor of The River Ran Red: Homestead 1892