C and Tusculum, 2011.
Jennette Journal Entry, 2009.
Tictac and Tootsie, 2009.
OG Willie, 2010.
Journal Entry by Edward and his brother Robert, 2011.
Kensington Blues is a photography project focusing on the residents who live along Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia. During the nineteenth century, Kensington was a prosperous neighborhood, a national leader of the textile industry and home to a diverse population of immigrants. Industrial restructuring of the mid 20th century lead to a sharp economic decline including high unemployment and a significant population loss. Today, Kensington Avenue is infamous for drug abuse and prostitution. The Ave runs approximately 3 miles through one of Philadelphia’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods.
Women-some as young as twenty, others who’ve been on and off the Ave for twenty years--populate the neighborhood in great numbers. Prostitution has become a social norm. Drugs such as Heroin, Crack, Xanax are sold out in the open. Addicts sell clean needles for a dollar a piece-- ten needles equals a bag of dope. With the roaring El train overhead, Kensington Ave is in a state of perpetual hustle.
Working with a 4x5 camera, I have deliberately chosen a slow photographic process in order to slow down the rapid speed of life as it happens along the Ave. The focus of my work is portraiture. I want to tap into the state of mind of those who live in Kensington. I am interested in how people survive the neighborhood and themselves. I ask residents to share their stories and I record the audio or have them write in my journal. Rather than write about my subjects, I prefer to hear their voice or read their handwriting, direct from the source. Pairing a first person narrative with a portraiture photograph effectively combines stillness with motion to elicit the viewer’s imagination in a way that is very different than video. A sample of this work is on view at my website, www.kensingtonblues.com.
The goal of my work is to capture raw life and make it understandable. I rely on the sincerity of those I photograph to help me in this process. In doing so, it makes the work stronger.