A selection of images from the Philadelphia March For Our Lives protest/ march held on 3.24.18.
Late last September, after a shoot in Harrisburg, I decided to take the long way home through Pennsylvania’s Amish country. Despite having lived in PA on and off since 2001, I hadn’t visited this storied step back in time since I was a kid. With no real frame of reference, I typed the one restaurant I remembered from when I was ten into my GPS and set out for the Good and Plenty. The 45-mile journey would take me through the heart of Lancaster County and into the warm and welcoming past.
I never did make it to the Good and Plenty. The landscape was so inviting and accessible, I decided to pull off the highway and ramble through the farmland. Like John Muir supposedly once said, “Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence.” While I may not always live by this philosophy, when the opportunity presents itself, I go for it.
I came across all you would expect to see in Amish country: children innocently riding scooters (they’re not allowed to ride bikes), horses pulling families slowly and deliberately down a country road and livestock lazily grazing in the late summer sun. I wandered through fields of corn that were indeed as high as an elephants eye, came to a clearing that was swarming with more bugs than there are stars in the sky and watched a hot air balloon softly sink below the distant tree line. The one oddity that caught my eye was the horse and buggy only section at the gas station. Although It was fully equipped with a garbage can and shovel.
It was nearing dusk and I had no idea how far I was from home so I hopped into my car and set the GPS for Philly. Turns out I was only 68 miles away. After about five miles on this single lane “highway” I was met with a road closed sign and was forced to reroute. I circled around to investigate and discovered the reason for the closure of this bustling thoroughfare was a parade. Guess John Muir was calling again. It took a few more loops but I finally found a parking space next to a few horses tied to a fence.
I walked the few blocks down the road towards main street and tried to blend in. This was no easy task with a giant camera dangling from my neck. I was clearly an outsider there acting as a voyeur. I’m usually not shy or apprehensive when it comes to shooting strangers in a strange place but I didn’t want to come off as if I was on Amish safari. I was genuinely excited for this parade and just wanted to document the experience. That however can easily be construed as exploitation.
The crowd was about twenty percent Amish, five percent minority and seventy-five percent civilian white (as in not Amish.) I posted up near a family who clearly claimed their spots much earlier in the day. I’m pretty sure they had eaten breakfast and lunch there and were just moving on to dinner. A friendly gentleman wearing an Eagles hat to my right who was not with the group pointed out that I was facing the wrong way and to get my camera ready because the parade was set to kick off any minute. He asked where I was from and when I told him Philadelphia he gasped. He’d lived in this town his entire life and had never been. Need I remind you I was less than seventy miles away? He asked if it was difficult to park downtown and what Reading Terminal Market was like. I told him he should come see for himself. This he took as an invitation to meet up. We exchanged emails then a parting handshake. I’m still waiting to hear from him.
The parade finally began. The Grand Marshall’s Dick and Jean Risk kicked off the festivities followed by generations of tractor drivers and the Lancaster County Alternate Dairy Princess. The last glints of sunshine were fading fast so I turned my camera on the crowd for a few final shots before heading home. As the golden hour turned to dusk I drove off but not before stopping to get a few more shots to properly close out my day. I guess the beauty of living in Pennsylvania can be summed up by the fact that you can spend the day shooting portraits in the middle of a “city” then stumble upon an Amish farmer plowing a field by horse at sunset.
of the one thousand three hundred and ninety five photos i shot today at the dnc protests this is my favorite. a little girl playing in fdr park in south philly directly across from where the convention was about to kick off. detached from the anger, violent rhetoric and divisiveness she found joy. we as humans experience this type of blissful innocence for such a short time. it’s a time of peace, love and happiness. i want to help create a world where my nine month old daughter can revel in this for as long as possible. i didn’t feel that love and happiness today. from the moment i arrived i felt anger, hate and rivalry. obama says we can do better. i agree. we say black lives matter and want food not bombs, a higher living wage, equality between the sexes and last but never least LGBTQ rights. but we can’t unite behind a candidate that can bring us closer those goals. i fear this lack of unity will lead to the election of a president that will make my daughters life more difficult. yours too. please think hard on this.
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”
I’ve been wanting to play around with making a cinemagraph for a while and was looking into picking up Flixel but decided to experiment in photoshop. luckily we had a giant snowstorm pass through which provided the perfect opportunity. I dusted off the ol’ 7D for the job as it was wet as hell outside and didn’t want to compromise the primary gear. I don’t shoot much video so after a quick refresher I convinced the inimitable Fabricio Rodriguez to take center stage in the middle of clearfield street under a well placed street light. Looked purdy and we shot about ten seconds of footage which was all we needed to complete the process. Took one pass at this PHLEARN tutorial and produced this result. Thanks Mr. Nace.
What do you do if you’re the newly sworn in mayor of Philadelphia? Well if your South Philly born and bred mayor Jim Kenney you throw a rager at the Pennsylvania Convention Center featuring Philly mascots, legendary DJ Jerry “Geator with the Heater” Blavat, food trucks serving up everything from fried chicken to korean tacos and of course free booze. You’re off to a good start Mr. Kenney now get to work.
I popped into the Saint Lazarus Bar for a quick beer the other night after seeing John Zorn’s Simulacrum at Johnny Brenda’s. To the left of where I sat was this mysterious stranger hugging a guitar while slowly sipping a drink and to the right of me was this wall emblazoned with an image of a fiery red forest. Clearly this man was meant to be photographed in front of this wall. I ask to shoot people I don’t know with some regularity so without hesitating I slid down towards the stranger, introduced myself and asked if I could take a picture of him in front of said wall on fire. He shot back a quick, “yes of course” as if he’d been expecting this inquiry. I had only my phone on me at the time but didn’t want to miss this opportunity. After a few quick shots I asked his name. Melvin. He then gave me his card, said thank you, took a final sip of his beer, grabbed his guitar and vanished. The next day after posting the photo to instagram I pulled his card from my pocket and decided to reach out to Melvin C. McKnight aka Blaqmel to ask if he’d sit for a proper portrait. He again said “yes of course.” The location I had in mind had been on my agenda to use for quite a while. Months ago while in the basement of my building someone turned the lights off and this was revealed to me. I thought Melvin would be perfect for this space plus I’m moving in a few days so time was not on my side. Clearly Melvin was also meant to be photographed in my creepy basement.