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.
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.
As the wife of a photographer, Natasha often falls victim to my camera. After being together for ten years, I’ve shoved my lens in her face upwards of ten billion times. It’s gotten to the point where I know not to point it in her direction anymore. That being said I wasn’t going to let the opportunity to shoot maternity photos of her while visiting her parents out in magical Cape Cod pass me by. It took some convincing but she eventually acquiesced and here are the results.
Meet Derek (Bagel) Bakal and his puppets. They’re an odd yet wildly entertaining and very photogenic bunch. If you’d like to learn to make puppets you should reach out to Derek. He’s a brilliantly creative teacher/ mad man.
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.
A couple months back, the photo editor of JUMP asked if I was available to gets some shots of The Dead Milkmen for the summer 2015 issue. I can’t remember what my answer was specifically but even If I was busy I would have cancelled whatever else I doing to make this happen. I was told that I’d be meeting with the band on a Tuesday afternoon after they performed an acoustic set at main branch of the Philadelphia Free Library. I put it on my calendar and set about my day. Fast forward to the Sunday before the shoot. It’s mid to late spring and I’m prowling around on my bike running random errands and wasting time. At around about 4pm while standing five deep in line at the Family Dollar I get a call from that very same photo editor. He frantically explains that when he told me Tuesday he actually meant Sunday. He begged my forgiveness and asked there was any chance I could get over to the library as quickly as possible. I really needed the crappy cleaner I was holding but dropped it where I stood and ran home. I originally had some big ideas for this shoot but there was zero chance of making any of that happen now as I was told they could only hang around for a few minutes after the show. When I got home I quickly grabbed my camera bag and a reflector and rode out to the library in about three minutes. Normally impossible but not on that day. With no plan I was ready to wing it and just cared about getting a decent shot and saying what’s up to Rodney and the boys. We met up in the alley behind the library and I did my best not to gush. They were gracious but indicated that they wanted to make this happen quickly. I scanned the area and caught sight of the Swann Memorial Fountain. It was pretty still warm out and there were kids swimming in it. I thought it would be amazing to get the band to hop on it but that idea was shot down immediately. With patience waring thin I suggested the courtyard of The Rodin Museum. It’s pretty and looks like Paris so why not. We hobbled on over only to discover that they like to close early on a Sunday afternoon. A common thought of ‘shit’ resounded. Since we had just walked all the way over here I decided to attempt some shots with them gathered on the steps in front of the gate. The light was garbage but the mood was jolly so we gave it a go. After a few funny faces and some killer jokes the foursome started wavering and wandered off the steps. I wasn’t going to bug them too much more but asked for one more shot on the way back to the library. As we passed by the Barnes Museum I asked if they could line up behind the long rectangular fountain. While setting up to take the shot they started playing in the water and were picking up the little rocks. In no time a security guard materialized and reprimanded all of us and threatened to kick us out. This put everyone in the perfect mood and we finished up the shoot feeling a bit more punk rock that when we’d started. Two minutes later and a whopping 15 minutes after we started everyone ran off in different directions and my shoot with The Dead Milkmen although rushed and rough around the edges was a success. The only thing left to do at this point was to head back to family dollar for that cleaner.