In this week’s City Paper, Natalie Hope McDonald tells the story of a small but growing cadre of Philadelphia-based photographers who are using the photo-sharing site Flickr for all of its community-building glory. Many of these folks go by pseudonyms that reflect their attachment to the City of Brotherly Love but they’ve taken to stepping out from behind their on-line personas and gathering in person to talk about their shared hobby and photo subject – Philadelphia.
McDonald writes about Addie Fuller, a 32-year-old Penn employee who also lives in West Philadelphia. Fuller and her fiance “traipse around the city documenting its often ignored urban landscape, focusing on Philly’s homegrown grit and decay (a common theme among locals).”
“I hope I give the impression that I see beauty in the city around me,” says Fuller, “even when things aren’t necessarily pretty. I think I could spend a lifetime shooting the city and not run out of fodder.”
Many of our Philadelphia readers have probably experienced that feeling when they see something – a new angle on the skyline, a makeshift memorial, an oasis of nature in the middle of an urban wasteland – and wish they had their camera with them.
As part of training for a 60-mile benefit walk, my wife and I have been trekking around town more than ever, starting from our South Philly home and picking a direction at random. Just last weekend, I went west while she went south. My walk took me through some of the more distressed, “gritty” (an oft-used adjective for many of Philly’s neighborhoods) parts of Point Breeze and Gray’s Ferry. Her stroll led down Broad Street past parts which she described as looking like “what she remembers the bad parts of European cities looked like.” We repeated that five-mile loop last night which also includes a trek around the FDR Park loop. The park is a study in contrasts between the passive use groves and lakes, the activity of well-kept tennis courts and baseball fields, and the buzz of Interstate 95 and Pattison Avenue. One is never far enough away to forget that they’re in a city. If I had my camera, I could have snapped pictures of the algae bloom on the park’s various lakes, the silohuette of the skaters on the half pipe and the two cop cars, lights on, tearing under I-95 in pursuit of who-knows-what.
Until I start remembering to bring my little digital camera along, I’ll have to depend on this intrepid band of Flickr users to provide me with more unique views of this very visually stimulating city. Check out flickr.coma and just type “Philadelphia” in the search. You’ll be amazed at what you find.