Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Photographers whose work I like - No35/ Jeffrey Stockbridge

Jeffrey Stockbridge is a photographer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His documentary photography series and self-published book, Kensington Blues, which was released in 2017 has received wide international recognition. And rightly so.

Kensington Blues is a heart-felt confrontational body of work which you can't turn away from. The pictures are superbly seen and crafted with an amazing use of light and a colour palette that is just right for the job. And the chilling portraits are simply stunning. Clearly this series has been a labour of love for Stockbridge, made with persistent hard work over many years and a conviction that this was a story that had to be told.  

Stockbridge says this about Kensington Blues - "Kensington Blues is a portrait photography project of the down and out residents who live along Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia. During the nineteenth century, Kensington was a strong working-class neighbourhood, a national leader of the textile industry and home to a diverse population of immigrants. Like many rust belt cities, industrial restructuring of the mid twentieth 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 neighbourhood. Women, some as young as twenty years old, and others who’ve been on the Ave for decades, populate the neighbourhood in great numbers. Prostitution has become a social norm. Drugs such as Heroin, Meth, Crack and Xanax are sold out in the open. Addicts sell clean needles for a dollar a piece. Five 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 chose a slow photographic process in order to literally 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 are struggling to survive their addiction. I ask those I photograph to share their stories so that others may learn from them. I record the audio conversations or ask participants to write their thoughts in my journal. The goal of my work is to enable people to relate to one-another in a fundamentally human way, in spite of stereotypes and commonly perceived differences. The truth is, addiction can happen to anyone.

In 2017, over 70,000 people died of drug overdose in the United States, approx. half of which were due to Fentanyl. That’s 191 deaths a day. In my home town of Philadelphia, over 1200 people died from overdose in 2017. As a citizen, I am deeply concerned that not enough is being done to help those suffering from substance use disorders.

The work I’ve been doing in Kensington over the past 10 years is in a way a collaboration between myself and those I photograph. Together, through photography, audio recordings, journal entries and videos, we are working to highlight the voices and stories of those who suffer from substance use disorders. By sharing the intimate details of their plight, those I photograph are effectively humanising addiction and challenging the stigma that all drug addicts are morally corrupt."

You can go to Jeffrey Stockbridge's website HERE.

No comments: