The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Jan 2016 back issue
North Philadelphia
by Daniel Traub
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Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1970s and ’80s, I often had the sense that there were in fact two separate cities: the affluent, primarily white area within the boundaries of William Penn’s original urban plan called “Center City” where my family lived, and the areas beyond that were predominantly African American and markedly less prosperous. Although people from across the city interacted at work, school, and in public spaces, there was a divide. North Philadelphia, in particular, was, and still is, the center of the African American population in the city. It is an area rich in culture and history. However, since the 1950s, the familiar narratives of the decline of U.S. manufacturing and demographic shifts to the suburbs have led to urban decay. While there are pockets of recent development, large stretches have been plagued by poverty, drug-related violence and blight. After nearly a decade abroad, I returned in 2008 to the United States and began photographing in North Philadelphia. My experience of the place, however, had changed. It now seemed alien and abrasive, and going there alone, day after day, was a struggle. I became aware of myself as a privileged outsider with a camera, in a place where I did not belong. Nevertheless, there was something in the
Lot with Girard College in the background, West Seybert Street near North 21st Street, 2008.
Young Woman with Scarf, West Norris Street near North Croskey Street, 2013.
Man with Blue Overalls, 24th and West Thompson Street, 2008.
Tree and Row Houses, 38th and Pennsgrove Street, 2010.
Faith United Baptist Church, 19th and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, 2010.
Backyards, West Montgomery Avenue near 21st Street, 2008.
World Prayer Center, North 29th Street near West Susquehanna Avenue, 2010.
Tree, West Norris Street near North Croskey Street, 2013.
Broad St Subway Entrance with Divine Lorraine Hotel in background, Broad Street and Ridge Avenue, 2009.
Woman with White Dress, North Hollywood Street near West Jefferson Street, 2008.
Woman with Head Scarf, 27th and Master Street, 2013.
Memorial on the side of a Storefront Church, 24th and West Jefferson Street, 2008.
Qing Ming Jie (Ancestors’ Day) Offering outside of a Chinese Takeout Restaurant, North 21st Street and West Diamond Street, 2010.
Corner, 24th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, 2008.
images I was making that held my attention and encouraged me to continue. Rather than trying to represent North Philadelphia as an example of broader social realities, I started to see it as a unique place that had meaning for me, and I found new footing. Gradually, the contours of this area, with its own history and set of circumstances, began to emerge.
Two Boys, North 26th Street near West Fletcher Street, 2008.
Woman with Tattoos, 23rd and West Montgomery Avenue, 2008.
Corner, 22nd and Ridge Avenue, 2008.
Lot, North 24th and West Master Street, 2010.
Lot, Cecil B. Moore Avenue near North Marston Street, 2010.
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