Postcards from... Philadelphia & West Philadelphia, 1987

November 12, 2017  •  1 Comment

When I spent a year on the University of Pennsylvania campus, in 1987-88 (upcoming postcard series, stay tuned!), the European exchange student I was then was impressed by the Philadelphia skyline, as seen from the Museum steps made famous by the Rocky movies…

[Version française de cet article ici]

Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia, 1987Waiting in line to get last minute $5 tikcets for the Philadelphia Philarmonic Orchestra … or, from the 25th floor of the high rise building I was living in, as it was beautifully lit by the setting sun.

Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia, 1987 The skyline was changing before my eyes: Philadelphia’s first iconic skyscraper, “One Liberty Place”, was being finished. Its 61 storeys and 945 feet dominated the entire city.

Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia, 1987    Tempo Latino 2017 - 03Tempo Latino 2017 - 03

It was the first building to break the gentlemen's agreement not to build any structure in Center City higher than the statue of William Penn on top of Philadelphia City Hall built in 1901.

Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia, 1987

If Philadelphia actually wasn’t a particularly attractive city, it harbored a gem: its Philharmonic Orchestra, then directed by Ricardo Muti. Those motivated enough to arrive early and queue up could attend amazing concerts for just $2, from the top-most gallery, from which we had great views of the orchestra...

Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia Philarmonic orchestra directed by Ricardo Muti

... and of the whole theater. 

Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia Philarmonic orchestra directed by Ricardo Muti

Outside, a more colorful type of music continued…

Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia, 1987 … reminding us that the centers of American cities were typically, after sundown, mostly left to the poorer among the population.

Philadelphia, 1987Philadelphia, 1987 My campus was a small island of indecent wealth entrenched in the very poor neighborhood of West Philadelphia. In just a few steps, we could move from ostentatious success to misery…

West Philadelphia, 1987West Philadelphia, 1987 … and signs of violence were visible at almost every street corner.

West Philadelphia, 1987West Philadelphia, 1987

This environment gave me the opportunity to make my first street portrait:

"Forget About the Rest" in West Philadelphia  •  "Oubliez tout le reste" à Philadelphie"Forget About the Rest" in West Philadelphia • "Oubliez tout le reste" à PhiladelphieWest Philadelphia, 1987. My first street portrait

In spite of the optimistic, voluntarist mural paintings…

West Philadelphia, 1987West Philadelphia, 1987 … many places looked and felt like they belonged in the third world.

West Philadelphia, 1987West Philadelphia, 1987 Still, culture and poetry are sometimes found in the most unexpected places, like on the back of this car, quoting “Jean Cocteau upon meeting M. Dietrich: “Madame, your name starts with a caress and ends with a whiplash” (1947)”

West Philadelphia, 1987West Philadelphia, 1987 More to come, stay tuned!


Comments

HENRI(non-registered)
Depuis hier j attendais une photo qui est restée gravée dans mon souvenir: celle de la maison jumelle qui a elle seule symbolise pour moi les usa... et aujourd’hui la voilà, intacte cette photo, après 30 ans. Puissance de la mémoire mais aussi puissance de la photo comme médium
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