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
Blumenfeld To Add To Abbotts Square

Blumenfeld To Add To Abbotts Square

May 27, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Society Hill mixed-use set for expansion, Mt Sinai as demolition and construction site, Hershey’s signs on for Pennovation Center, and mapping Philly regional commuter patterns > more

In Kingsessing, A Colonial Cottage Keeps History In Place

In Kingsessing, A Colonial Cottage Keeps History In Place

May 27, 2016  |  Vantage

Just off of Woodlands Avenue among a block of crumbling rows stands a small, stone farmhouse that has miraculously withstood time and tide for over 250 years. Contributor Ann de Forest has the story behind the tiny colonial cottage on Vogdes Street > more

Planning Commission Signs Off On New Penn Medical Facility

Planning Commission Signs Off On New Penn Medical Facility

May 26, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Penn Tower replacement approved by planning commission, two West Philly community gardens safe from sheriff’s sale for now, South Philly school to get $100K for playground improvements, anti-gentrification graffiti in West Philly, and Habitat for Humanity begins work on 21 homes near Temple > more

Bicycles + Exploration = Bikesploration! (Round 2)

May 25, 2016  |  Uncategorized

  Hidden City and Spoke Magazine have teamed up again to present a four tour series of bicycle explorations. Three of the tours are brand new > more

With World Heritage City Liftoff Tomorrow, What Can We Expect?

With World Heritage City Liftoff Tomorrow, What Can We Expect?

May 25, 2016  |  News

World Heritage and City officials will unveil the project's ambitious goals, but what do they have in mind, and can they deliver? Hilary Jay reports > more

PhillyU Students Rethink East Falls Station

PhillyU Students Rethink East Falls Station

May 25, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Imagining a rebuilt SEPTA station, recalling the fire of 1897, Pennsport residents want dog parks, five more homes for South Kensington, and operator selected for Parks on Tap summer series > more