earlier today i took my students the self dubbed “village photo crew” on a photo walk to the open kitchen sculpture garden in kensington. when we arrived at the intersection of lehigh avenue and american street i noticed a woman wearing a brightly colored overgarment. she clashed with her surroundings and caught my eye not because of what she was wearing but because she was clipping plants from the landscaping outside of a rite aid. i’m a strong proponent of guerrilla gardening and the re-allocation/ propagation of city plants but rarely do i see others participating in this exercise. i walked over and asked if i could take a few pictures of her. she gracefully took my hand and introduced herself as tatiana from armenia. when i asked why she was taking the cuttings she peacefully said she was going to place them on her altar to allah. she then said she would be happy to pose as she’s often asked which she attributed to her “historic look”
After years of missing out I finally made it to Philly Naked Bike Ride. It’s like a festive cartoon come to life. Although after 8 hours of riding through the city streets with this bright bare bodied bunch I was destroyed. It was quite the day though. Thanks to all the riders covered in color, pride, love and passion for a mightily photogenic pilgrimage.
If there’s one thing I love about summer in the city, it’s the unbearable heat paired with the oppressive humidity. I find it both cleanses the body and the mind. Another thing I love, is bearing witness to how others cope. Most adults shy away from the heat and duck indoors to bathe in reconditioned air. But not kids. Kids love the summer sun. It represents a freedom from homework, a freedom from boredom and a freedom from bedtimes. Living in North Philadelphia, I revel in the creative ways kids find to keep cool during these sweltering summer days. From splashing around in the mist of a corner hydrant to lounging in the back of a plastic lined water filled pickup truck, they always find a way. I was sitting around my apartment last Sunday and decided to head out in search of something photogenic. I didn’t have any set plan on where to go but if you want to find kids playing in water all you have to do is follow the blocks long stream that ultimately leads to a hydrant. After only riding for a few minutes I hit the jackpot. There was a gushing hydrant, a grill smoldering, music blaring, a jumpy house and kids swimming in not one but TWO gigantic inflatable pools. It was the quintessential summer in the city scene. I hopped off my bike and walked on over to the adults to ask if it would be ok to get some shots. This usually goes one of two ways. Either I’m met with side eye and apprehension or open arms. This group was very welcoming. I didn’t even have to dive too far deep into my usual pitch. They saw the camera and welcomed me in to document their celebration which I found out was in honor of Xavier’s 7th birthday. The highlight for me was an impromptu yet clearly choreographed performance of the Electric Slide. I was beyond blown away by this. I’m so sick of the Cupid Shuffle. It was refreshing to partake in a throwback from my teenage bar mitzvah circuit years. As the jumpy house started to deflate and the shade covered the once glistening pool water I took my last shots packed up and hopped on my bike. As I waved goodbye one of the kids ran over and asked me to come back next week but this time with my bathing suit.
I had the esteemed privilege of attending Wing Bowl 23 which was held in the early hours of January 30th at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. There’s a great deal that could and probably should be said about this celebrated tradition but this sums it up just fine:
“PHILADELPHIA — I have found the heart of the Philly sports scene … and it isn’t pretty.
You know Paulie, Adrian’s brother in “Rocky”? Multiply him by the thousands, dress them in Eagles jerseys, fill each with a six-pack and stick them in a line so long it wraps around the Wachovia Center, throughout the parking lot and practically into New Jersey. Sprinkle some of these guys among the parked cars where they can urinate in semi-privacy. Carpet the lot with crushed beer cans and broken beer bottles. Throw in a cold wind and a winter rain.
Now, close the arena doors a half-hour before the competition begins because there is no more room inside the 20,000-seat center, forcing thousands of disappointed and angry fans to go home without the pleasure of watching 29 contestants eat as many chicken wings as possible in 14-minute rounds.
Oh, and did I mention? It’s 5:30 a.m. on a weekday. That’s right — 5:30 in the morning.” You can read the rest of the article here.
It was a beautiful day today and I had a few spare hours this afternoon so I decided to head down to South Philly in search of something to photograph along the Delaware River. I find myself shooting down there quite often. It’s a pretty photogenic area and it seems each wander I go out on I find a new and interesting subject. Today I parked just along the entrance to Pier 68. When I got to the edge of the platform a man aboard a tug boat called out to me. He seemed pretty chipper and just wanted to chat. His job that day had him piloting the boat from the dock to the middle of the river where an oil barge called the Chesapeake was anchored. That’s it. Just back and forth multiple times a day. I didn’t catch his name but if I had more time I would have talked my way on board. Next time. As our conversation trailed off, an older fisherman sitting in a camping chair opposite the boat waved invitingly over to me. There were no immediate introductions. We just started having a conversation as if we were picking up where we left off the day before. He was surrounded by gear one would use to fish in various stages of wear as well and other random items like a bag of unopened Rice Krispies and Walmart shopping carts. I eventually asked him his name as the conversation was getting rather intimate. Dave is Korean and has lived in Philadelphia for 34 years. Or was it 43? Either way he left Korea behind when he was a young man and hasn’t returned. Despite having lived stateside longer than I’ve been alive he still spoke with a rather thick accent and I had trouble making out some of what he said. I did gather quite quickly that he is rather devout as the topic settled on god. He was a little taken aback when I told him I lean more towards the agnostic but understood my point of view. I asked him which particular sect of christianity he followed. He told me none. He wasn’t catholic, protestant, snake handler or presbyterian. He said he simply followed the word of god. I liked that. I honestly don’t understand all the divisions within the religion anyway. It’s all just jesus isn’t it? At this point another man walked up and plopped himself into a chair adjacent to the river. He didn’t seem at all concerned with this random photographer hanging about and just started chatting with us as if he was privy to the entire conversation. His name was Buddy I think. Well that’s what Dave told me at least. Buddy, a lifelong Philadelphian is probably sixty to seventy years old. He’s very soft spoken, polite and knowledgable about fishing. He had just returned with more beef livers to use as catfish bait. Despite being happy to chat he didn’t want me taking his picture. The only explanation he gave was that he was playing hooky from work and didn’t want to get caught. I assured him these photos would only end up on my blog which maybe three people read. Dave at this point started talking about his younger days. He had been an avid photographer and purchased an underwater camera to take out on fishing trips back in Korea. He then reached into his backpack and pulled out about ten folded pages with incredible black and white images of young men fishing in the 1960’s. He named a few of the men as his relatives and pointed out a few shots of himself. They were stunning. I assumed that Dave and Buddy had been fishing together at this spot for decades however they’d only connected recently. Dave had been calling Pier 68 his personal fishing spot for years and Buddy was stationed at the next pier down just fifty feet away. A recent influx of new anglers forced Buddy to move. Dave called Buddy’s spot North Korea, his spot South Korea and the water separating the two the DMZ. I wanted to ask him more about life in Korea before he emigrated but he didn’t seem to want to go down that road. He just kept saying how Philadelphia and the United States are the best places in the world. We chatted a bit more about bread, beer, politics and how to properly bait a hook. I had to get going said my goodbye’s and walked off just as casually as I’d come, assuming that no proper farewell was needed as next time I visit we’ll just fall back into the same old comfortable conversation.
The outer cape (wellfleet, truro and provincetown) has a certain romantic majesty that for me never seems to fade. This may have something to do with the occasional day dream I have of working as a lowly deck hand aboard an 18th century whaling ship. I’ve made the trek out to Truro countless times over the better part of the the past decade to visit Tasha’s (my wife’s) family and each time I come away feeling humbled for having the privilege of experiencing such a monumentally magical land (and sea) scape. so here’s a rather long gallery featuring eighty photos from my latest trip which took place this past late August/ early September.
My dear friend Chrissy came on by last night for a drink or two but let on she couldn’t stay as she had to wake up early the next morning to attend an implosion. I’ve heard a lot of early exit excuses, but none have ever piqued my interest quite as much. She explained that a 16-story uninhabited high rise apartment building in the Germantown section of Philadelphia was due to be razed at 7:15 am by the Philadelphia Housing Authority and as she’s in the archaeological preservation business she would be attending with some co-workers. Naturally I jumped on board. I woke at 6 am the following morning and headed on out to the site which was about twenty minutes from my apartment. When I got there, I discovered a wide radius surrounding the building had been closed off by the police. I played it cool and parked a few blocks away. I gathered my gear and proceeded on foot. When I reached the main blockade I was told I could not enter as I did not have a proper pass or hard hat. I miss my days as a credentialed member of the Philadelphia Press. It was early and I was feeling fearless so I decided to head down a street that ran parallel to the viewing area and cut through a yard that led to a wide open expanse with a clear view of the spectacle to come. The press at this point was already set up and not wanting to ruffle any feathers I found a spot behind a cameraman slightly shorter than I. (always a good tactic when you’re the last man on the scene) It was now 7:10am. Made it with five minutes to spare. I quickly noticed everyone else had ear plugs and masks. This worried me a bit as I had neither. I figured I’ve done enough damaged to my ear drums over the years and only concerned myself with the dust cloud that could potentially come floating my way. But with no time to deal I just hoped the wind would shift and begin to blow in the opposite direction. The countdown began roughly at 7:15. As the PHA employees depressed the symbolic t-bar that supposedly set off the charges nothing happened for about 5 second then an incredible booming started echoing throughout the corridor. Moments later a plume of smoke began to rise from beneath the building and it started to dip at the corner which led to a massive and rapid crumbling. All in it took only about 10-15 seconds for the entire structure to fall. Pretty impressive.
On May 24th I participated in a photo show at a pop up gallery in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. The temporary gallery space is called Destination Frankford and the theme of the show I contributed to was Rediscover. The opening was great and the photos alone from that day necessitate their own post which is soon to follow. Leslie Kaufmann who is at the helm of the project really is a visionary and has accomplished something quite spectacular. Please visit the Desintation Frankford website for more info. The third and final show in the series is opening tomorrow and will run through July 26. It revolves around the theme Reanimate and features work by the Philadelphia Sculptors.
Here’s my bit
“The idea of trying to rediscover Philadelphia, which has such a rich history, was initially stifling. I attempted to flesh out a series that explored the physical change that the city is currently undergoing. It’s hard not to notice all the new condo developments popping up overnight like weeds in the summer time. What I ended up focusing on was not change but the ordinary surroundings in which I weave through on a daily basis. I focused on the often-ignored scenery that I pass by on my way to work, the store, bike riding and so on. I brought that backdrop to the forefront and at each location found a piece of scrap wood that I would use to present my image on. This not only allows for a visual representation of where I’ve been but a physical one as well. I ended up discovering the weird yet pedestrian environment I generally ignore and used gave new life to what would most likely end up as rotting garbage. ”
Check out the images below, before they’ve been transferred and the final product. The transfers don’t photograph too well but look killer in person. I printed them 11″ x 17″ and cut the wood i found down to fit.