Some dusty records and a sticker-covered door suggest that a teenager might have once called this space their own. Seeking respite from the elements a tree pries a window frame open, and forces its way into the room. Immediately regretting the decision, it begins planning its escape. Limbs curve and grow upwards and back outside to gladly face whatever Mother Nature might throw its way. This is the scene portrayed in Jeffrey Stockbridge's "36 And Haverford, No. 2," which is part of his powerful solo exhibit Philadelphia at The Delaware Center For The Contemporary Arts in Wilmington, Delaware.
According to United States Census data the City Of Brotherly Love is home to approximately 60,000 abandoned properties. Armed with a 4x5 view camera and available light, Mr. Stockbridge photographs derelict spaces in disenfranchised Philadelphia communities and juxtaposes them against portraits of local residents who have entered or even made them their own. The result is strikingly real and unsettlingly beautiful.
Stockbridge's portraits speak less of desperation and sadness than strength and resilience. There is hope and great fight, as well as stoic pride in the eyes and stance of his subjects. It is evident that these are not photographs taken by a random out-of-his-element outsider, but by someone these individuals have come to trust. "Philadelphia" tells the haunting story of a city's forgotten places and people and, most importantly, their will to survive.
The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts is a non-collecting art museum founded in 1979. It presents 20-30 exhibitions annually of regionally, nationally and internationally recognized artists that explore topical issues in contemporary art and society. The center is housed in a renovated industrial building in the heart of the rejuvenated Wilmington Riverfront. Jeffrey Stockbridge's "Philadelphia" exhibition runs until May 8th, 2011.