“Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.”
― Robert W. Service
Kensington Blues is a portrait photography project of the residents who live along Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia. During the nineteenth century, Kensington was a strong working-class neighborhood, a national leader of the textile industry and home to a diverse population of immigrants. Industrial restructuring of the mid 20th century lead to a sharp economic decline including high unemployment and a significant population loss.
Today, Kensington Avenue is infamous for drug abuse and prostitution. The Ave runs 3 miles through what is now a dangerous and crime-ridden neighborhood. Women-some as young as twenty, others who’ve been on and off the Ave for twenty years–populate the neighborhood in great numbers. Prostitution has become a social norm. Drugs such as Heroin, Crack and Xanax are sold out in the open. Addicts sell clean needles for a dollar a piece– ten needles equals a bag of dope.
With the roaring El train overhead, Kensington Avenue is in a state of perpetual hustle. Working with a 4×5 camera, I have deliberately chosen a slow photographic process in order to slow down the rapid speed of life as it happens along the Ave. The focus of my work is portraiture. I want to tap into the state of mind of those who live in Kensington. I am interested in how people survive the neighborhood and themselves. I ask residents to share their stories and I record the audio or have them write in my journal. The goal of my work is to enable people to relate to one-another in a fundamentally human way, despite any commonly perceived differences. I rely on the trust and sincerity of those I photograph to help me in this process.
Jeffrey Stockbridge (b. 1982) graduated from Drexel University with a BS in Photography in 2005. His work has been included in recent exhibitions at The National Portrait Gallery London, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, The Houston Center for Photography and The Wapping Project Bankside. Stockbridge is a recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grant, an Independence Foundation Fellowship and a CFEVA Fellowship. His work has been featured in publications such as The Telegraph UK, Light Box by Time Magazine, Vignette Magazine, Feature Shoot and The Rust Belt Rising Almanac. Stockbridge lives and works in Philadelphia, Pa.