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”
As you may have heard the Pope came to Philly this weekend.
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.
Thousands of people gathered to march from the Philadelphia School District HQ on North Broad Street to Independence Hall in an effort to reclaim Martin Luther King Day on January 19th. The protesters formed a strong united front to address a laundry list of social concerns from ending stop and frisk and police brutality to increasing the minimum wage and education reform in Philadelphia and beyond.
2015 started off nice and wholesome with the annual New Years Day Mummers Parade and quickly devolved into a rollicking bacchanal. and yes i know one hundred is a ridiculous number of images to post. However, this event is quite the visual spectacle and is deserving of a gallery that reflects the shift from family friendly affair to freak show.
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.
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.