Tag Archives: Crime Rates

Louisa Marie Summer: Jennifer’s Family

Some photographers do the hard work.  They approach strangers and integrate themselves into new worlds, and through that integration, give us insights into situations and experiences we might never encounter. This hard work also connects us to our humanity and to the human condition. Louisa Marie Summer is one of those photographers, and Schilt Publishing has recently released a powerful book of her series, Jennifer’s Family.

Louisa was born in Munich, Germany, received her undergraduate degree in Photo Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, and her MFA in Photography at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008. She now lives and works in New York and is working as a freelance photographer and teaching for non-profit art organizations with students with special needs. Together with the NYC non-profit organization “Rehabilitation Through Photography”, she helps people to improve their lives through photography.

Louisa’s work has been exhibited worldwide, and has received numerous awards and nominations.  She was a selected student of the Edie Adams Workshops, and has been featured in a range of publications.

The photographs of Jennifer’s Family share my experience with Jennifer, a 26 year-old
first-generation Puerto Rican woman, whom one day I approached in South
Providence, RI. This area is an urban neighborhood with a large
African-American and Hispanic population, high unemployment and crime rates,
and where many families live well below the poverty line. 

For more than two years I have been portraying the daily life of
Jennifer, who lives with her Native American life partner Tompy and their four
children in a rundown three-bedroom apartment at or near the lower end of the
socioeconomic ladder. In spite of difficult living conditions, poverty, and
illness, Jennifer remains optimistic while thoroughly caring for her children.

Over time I literally became part of the daily life of an America family
I care for and who cares for me. The quote of Jennifer’s life partner and also
the title of my short video documentary, Respect
Goes a Long Way
perfectly expresses our relationship based on mutual trust,
respect, and understanding.

To support the
family’s voice, I included short essays from interviews in the book
that
reveal details about their relationships and emotions, as well as their finances
and child-rearing philosophies. The words reflect them as trustworthy human beings,
while also revealing the contradictions and tensions between what they say and
how they act. 

 With this work I want to give
people a voice, particularly those who cope with poverty and despair. I am
convinced that honest and compassionate images play an important role as a
“social conscience” that can change people’s views or at least raise awareness.

Neighborhood Blues: Kensington, Philadelphia

Philadelphia is well known as a city of neighborhoods. Walk a half-mile down the block and everything changes; the faces, the shops, the streets themselves are different. Photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge, who lives in the city, says that there is one neighborhood of which many Philadelphians are only vaguely aware: Kensington, in the city’s northeast, an area with high poverty and crime rates. Stockbridge has been photographing the denizens of Kensington and recording their stories since the winter of 2008, as part of a long-term project that he hopes to conclude this summer.

Stockbridge had been working on a project documenting the interiors of abandoned houses in Philadelphia when he first met the people who would become the subjects of the current project, the people who spend their days hanging out on Kensington Avenue. “I met some very interesting individuals that I had originally shied away from,” he says. “I just began going to the Avenue with my camera and photographs from my previous projects and introducing myself to people and talking to them about the avenue, and that’s when I started to get a sense of the environment.”

With both portraits and environmental photography, Stockbridge aims to capture the sense that a neighborhood like Kensington unites people, for better or worse, through the harsh realities of everyday life.

And Stockbridge says he has found that the people of Kensington are eager to share their stories. “The people I photograph are not trying to hide anything,” he says. “They know that everyone looking at them knows what they’re doing, whether they’re working as a prostitute or they’re selling drugs or they’re an addict.” And in the years he has been photographing them, Stockbridge has become much more comfortable on the Avenue—and the Avenue has become comfortable with him. People approach him when he shows up with a camera. “They usually ask me if I can take their picture too,” he says, “and say, ‘well, I got a story too.’”

One of the stories that “hits the nail on the head,” in Stockbridge’s words, is that of the two sisters “Tic-Tac and Tootsie,” pictured in the gallery above. The photographer says that the similarities and differences between the twins—the echoed hunches of their shoulders, the slight smile on only one face—highlight the contrasts inherent in life on the Avenue. The people in his photographs struggle and survive.

The project is the photographer’s first experience with pairing audio and visual recordings—both of which can be seen on the blog he maintains for the project—and he has also begun asking his subjects to write in a journal that he hopes to display alongside their photographs. He says that the collective history, as written and told by the residents of Kensington, is a necessary counterpart to his desire to use available light and chance meetings to communicate something about the human condition. Although the project now feels almost finished to Stockbridge, he says that it’s a topic that one could photograph forever—and that he may return, in a decade or so to see what has or hasn’t changed. “Every week there’s new people on the avenue,” he says.

And those people will, undoubtedly, have their own stories to tell, in their own voices. “I’m really just trying to show,” says Stockbridge. “I’m not trying to define. I’m just trying to say: ‘look.’”

Jeffrey Stockbridge is a Philadelphia-based photographer. See more of his work here.

Brownsville: Inside One of Brooklyn’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods

Brownsville, located in east Brooklyn, has long been one of New York City’s most dangerous neighborhoods. But even as crime rates reached record lows in the borough in 2009, violence has continued to increase in Brownsville, which has remained untouched by the gentrification seen in so many other parts of Brooklyn. Inspired by the rapid changes in his own neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Reed Young began researching places that hadn’t seen such gentrification over the last few decades. “I always tried to kind of stay away from New York stories just because I think it’s so easy to do a personal story in New York if you live here,” the Brooklyn-based photographer says. “But once I started doing research, I found out that Brownsville has similar crime rates to a place like East New York, but is almost a third of its size. Brownsville is one square mile of public housing, basically.”

In May 2011, Young and a friend, who does social work, spent two weeks photographing various community members in Brownsville, from gang members to a UPS driver who has to deliver packages with a police officer because he was held up at gunpoint. But before beginning to shoot, Young and his friend first met with Greg Jackson, who runs a recreation center in the neighborhood, after reading an article about him in the New York Times. “We asked if it was cool to just walk around and kind of talk to people to get a feeling of the neighborhood,” Young says. “And he said, ‘Hell no. You’ve got to be kidding.” In the same breath, Jackson called a Brownsville resident named Randy, who eventually led Young and his friend around the neighborhood for the project.

Though some people tried to rough up Young and his friend over the two weeks, the photo shoots were, for the most part, hassle-free. The most intense moment from the project took place when Young photographed a gang member and his mother in their doorway. “That was the most tension I’ve ever felt doing a photo shoot,” Young says. “Because he was head of the gang, all of his people were around, and it was on this block that’s really, really, really tough.”

Young walked away from the project seeing Brownsville divided between the good and the bad, with little in the middle. “There’s a saying in Brownsville that says if you’re 25, you’re either dead, or in jail or you’re done with the gang life,” he says. “You’re one of the three because you can’t be much older and be out of that category.” The photographer hasn’t returned to Brownsville since shooting the series, though he hopes to in the future. “I want to go and do a follow up and even talk to a lot of the same people,” he says. “But I wonder if it’s too early yet. Change happens really slowly there.”

Reed Young is a Brooklyn-based photographer. See more of his work here

Feifei Sun is an associate editor at TIME. Follow her on Twitter at @feifei_sun.