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Striking photographic portrait of the landscape and people of North Philadelphia published
Daniel Traub's North Philadelphia. Designed by Masum Shibata Text by Daniel Traub.

HEIDELBERG.- North Philadelphia is a photographic portrait of a neighborhood in prolonged crisis. The book presents a compelling glimpse in - to an urban area that hovers between decay and possibility, and is emblematic of many such regions across the United States.

Growing up in Philadelphia, photographer Daniel Traub came to know this section of the city as a youth while working on an urban renewal art project. Many years later, after spending a de - cade in China photographing communities at the margins of Chinese society, he returned to North Philadelphia to explore the economic and racial divide in his own country. Made between 2008-2013, North Philadelphia combines images of dilapidated homes, vacant lots, and street corners with portraits of the residents. While it is an unvarnished view of a neglected corner of America, it is also a book imbued with beauty and moments of revelation.

As I photographed, people would approach me, often with suspicion, to ask what I was doing. Many assumed that the large-format camera was a surveying instrument, and that I was a real-estate developer. When I responded that I was making images of the neighborhood, some would ask to be photographed. Two young men once said: “Take our picture or we’ll take your camera.” I obliged. When the negative arrived back from the lab, I was surprised by the sense of presence and intimacy in the image. One of the men appeared open and sweet, while the other had a swagger that seemed to hide a deeper vulnerability. It was then that people became a primary focus.

Many people I photographed, even those clearly struggling, evinced grace. I met one young woman who was working the street. She was at once forlorn and poised. Other people, however, seemed in limbo, awaiting some sort of change. Although looking back, I wonder if that was the case. Perhaps I was the one in an indeterminate state, drawn to people and places I conceived of as in-between. One older woman, Helen, had lived in the same house for decades. Though it was surrounded by trash-strewn lots and abandoned buildings, she kept it beautifully tended, with potted flowers outside. Her son, who was often there to look in on her, told me that their family was originally from the South and had lived in North Philadelphia since the turn of the twentieth century. They had deep roots there, and had witnessed the neighborhood slowly fall apart. “But,” he said, “it’s home and we don’t want to go anywhere else”. Daniel Traub

Daniel Traub (b. 1971) is a Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker, originally from Philadelphia. His photographs have been exhibited internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago and the Print Center in Philadelphia, and are in public and private collections, such as the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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