Thank you to Marco Pigoni for bringing this film to my attention. For anyone who has been around my site for any length of time, you are probably sick of hearing me talk about print as “evidence of intention,” and how print can be used in the field to help gain access, trust and permission. Pulling out your phone and pulling out a book will often receive opposite reactions. I create what I call “Field Guides,” to help those I wish to photograph better understand what my intentions are, and more importantly, what they are not. (Instagram)
Carrying a camera back in 1990 was a novelty and came with an astounding level of access and acceptance. The internet and social media forever changed this dynamic, and not in a good way. Trust and curiosity became like rare Earth metals. Guilty until proven innocent became the norm. Places I had once easily accessed slowly closed off. Authorities became more aggressive, more restrictive. The time required to work has almost made this style of photograph beyond my capability. Yet that’s all I want to do.
This film follows Jeffrey Stockbridge as he creates work in the Kensington area of Philadelphia, also known as the “Badlands,” due to its notorious, open-aired drug market. The opioid crisis in American is impossible to ignore and work like this will forever live on paper as evidence of what America did or didn’t do. This work ain’t easy people. Love it or hate it, it needs to be done. Print, books, dialogue, studios and the TIME required to be confronted by things we do not want to see.
THIS is what reality-based photography is supposed to be. We are not here to eat fast food. We are here to eat simple, clean, nutrition meals. On a side note, the guy knows how to shoot. He knows light, composition and my guess is knows how to work quickly. This is not the kind of thing you pull off the day after buying yet another new camera. This work take time to polish. Heck, navigating these scenes takes more time than most photographers are willing to commit, which is why we see so little of this work being produced.
And finally, this work is story or project based work. This is NOT a story about Jeffrey telling us how great he is. This is a story about the human beings IN the photographs. This speaks to the difference between story-based and artist-based work, both valid but both very different from one another.