Sometimes life can take you in wonderful directions. With a few commercial shoots planned in NYC and Pennsylvania this past summer we decided to base out of my girlfriend’s townhouse in the heart of urban Philadelphia. While we were renovating that space I took time to soak up the Philly experience and dive into a new series – experiencing a new city, place and culture. The creative juice always flows when things are changing. Within the first few days of a three month stay I was amazed by an alley we drove by – while in traffic after touring a museum I looked to my left and grabbed an iPhone shot of the alley that would be one of the core scenes for future shoots.
Over many weeks, scouting the sketchy sides of the city led to more scenes and possibilities: we would drive to an abandoned lot and spy a basketball court another street over with kids playing after school hoops. It was was as if each view opened into another leading on to ever more interesting locations and possibilities. I found my favorite near Girard and the 9th St bridge, where the overhead subway rails through former projects provided a backdrop of the current atmosphere of youth, graffiti and daily life amidst the basketball pickups and skater life in the tunnel beneath. This is where I based myself.
Getting local. Showing up with nothing and sitting on a bench absorbing, watching. Then over days of the same getting to know the neighborhood, the locals and the players. Building trust. Bringing a small camera. Then a bigger camera. Becoming just part of the scene. Finding models was a lot more difficult in Philly than LA and NY – I ended up finding friends and friends of friends: musicians and actors and artists. Once I had the neighborhood trust I could stage and shoot the scene, and as usually happens people get interested in what’s going on. One thing leads to another and then serendipity… A former Golden Gloves boxer comes over and tells us about a gym we should check out in the neighborhood; skaters tell us the story of building their skate park overnight from dollars dropped into a bucket and the Philly PD and city letting them go against permits and zoning so they could create a community and underground skatepark. All of this: focused on the feeling, letting intuition flow and the creative process be front and center. The work showed in Santa Monica in early September and will be also public in Santa Barbara in February 2016.