In The Neighborhood, Defying Labels

 

Editor’s Note: Last May, the Inquirer wrote about tensions between longtime neighborhood residents living west of Broad Street adjacent to Temple University and developers renovating row houses and building new units for the school’s burgeoning student population.

The comments on the articles haven’t been preserved for posterity in the paper’s online archives (which is generally a good thing), but we recall that some people said the area was a bad neighborhood now on its way to becoming a good one thanks to the influx of new development and population. Students were breathing new life into a place that was essentially dead. “They”–always “they”–have no right to squawk since they were the ones who allowed it become dilapidated, so said some comments.

Few habits of thought are more pernicious to city life than dividing neighborhoods into “good” ones and “bad.” Such thinking provided the license for the wholesale clearance of what were called “slum” areas in the 1960s, and it still serves as a ready justification for gentrification, slap-dash development and writing off vast swatches of the city. The neighborhood around Temple was and is impoverished, and suffers from a high level of violent crime (there were 75 murders between 2000 and 2011 in the area bounded by Broad and 21st Streets, and York and Dauphin Streets). It still isn’t what we could call a vibrant neighborhood–there aren’t enough shops or restaurants, and the streets don’t have the necessary bustling quality. But it is a community nonetheless, one that is more close-knit than many in the city.

Jessie Fox set out with her camera to capture the life of this neighborhood and came back with this photo essay. Her photographs remind us that people living in poorer areas don’t call their neighborhood “bad”; they just call it “home.”

Master Barber James Johnson. Tommy’s Barber Shop, 15th St. and Susquehanna Ave. | Photo: Jessie Fox

Mr. Tom, owner of Tommy’s Barbershop | Photo: Jessie Fox

Tommy’s Barber Shop, 15th and Susquehanna Avenue | Photo: Jessie Fox

After school, Tree House Books, 16th St. and Susquehanna Ave. | Photo: Jessie Fox

Raziq, 17th and Susquehanna Avenue | Photo: Jessie Fox

After school at Treehouse Books | Photo: Jessie Fox

North Broad Street | Photo: Jessie Fox

At the basketball courts after school. Penrose Park | Photo: Jessie Fox

James Johnson is a community activist as well as a barber. North Broad Street | Photo: Jessie Fox

Mustafa and Wayne, Tommy’s Barbershop | Photo: Jessie Fox

North Broad St. | Photo: Jessie Fox

North Broad St. | Photo: Jessie Fox

16th St. and Susquehanna Ave. | Photo: Jessie Fox

16th Street | Photo: Jessie Fox

Broad St. and Cecil B Moore Ave. | Photo: Jessie Fox

About the author

Jessie Fox is a recent graduate from Temple University who works as a photojournalist for the agency Here's My Chance. She grew up in a small town and now walks the streets of Philly with (almost always) a camera in hand. Fox graduated with a degree in Photojournalism and somehow works that aspect into her everyday life. She feels as though everyone has a story to tell and that there will always be someone who is willing to listen. She wants her photography to go beyond what is and help people to connect to others in a way they never thought possible.



5 Comments


  1. Awesome, awesome album! Its strange how many forget that people do indeed call these places home.

  2. Jessie makes photographs that are more than pictures, they are portraits of trust and respect

  3. Jessie manages to capture something beyond a human figure with her photgraphy. Looking at the subjects in her photos I feel as if I am speaking to the person and their personality has been imbued on the film.

  4. rachel hildebrandt

    this is an outstandingly piece! the comments under so many inquirer stories and naked philly blog posts are disheartening beyond words. everyone needs to be reminded that “good” and “bad” are gross oversimplifications and also that gentrification is about much more than rising property taxes; it fractures entire communities’ connection to place and identity

  5. Great pictures and great intro. Don’t let few hundred violent incidents overshadow the million points of humanity that exists underneath.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Wayne Junction Moves Forward With Revitalization

Wayne Junction Moves Forward With Revitalization

September 20, 2017  |  News

Developer Ken Weinstein unveils transit-oriented development plans for Wayne Junction district. GroJLart has the story > more

Inside Northeast Philly's Temple Of Ryerss

Inside Northeast Philly’s Temple Of Ryerss

September 19, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us on a fall field trip to the Ryerss Mansion, an eccentric, little-known house museum in the Great Northeast > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Locust Theatre

Unlisted Philadelphia: Locust Theatre

September 14, 2017  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places with his architectural illustration series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, a marvelous movie house in West Philly > more

Monument Lab: A City-Wide Art Museum That Asks Us To

Monument Lab: A City-Wide Art Museum That Asks Us To “Leave Fingerprints”

September 13, 2017  |  Vantage

We ought to write our own history, say the organizers of Monument Lab, who launch their multi-week public art and civic introspection festival today in the wake of Charlottesville, Dallas, and Durham. Nathaniel Popkin catches up with Monument Lab founder Paul Farber, who asks us all, "What is an appropriate monument for Philadelphia today?" > more

An Original Keeps It Classy On Chestnut Street

An Original Keeps It Classy On Chestnut Street

September 12, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

From furniture and furnace manufacturing to a 1980s video arcade, 1606 Chestnut Street has kept busy for 127 years. The Shadow has the details on this Center City standout > more

Skid Row Deaths Of 1963 Echoes Today's Opioid Crisis

Skid Row Deaths Of 1963 Echoes Today’s Opioid Crisis

September 8, 2017  |  Vantage

Steve Metraux takes a look at the "Canned Heat Wave" poisoning of 1963 that took the lives of 31 people on Skid Row. The public health scholar says the parallels between this tragic incident and Kensington's opioid crisis is telling > more