Under the El train in Northeast Philadelphia resides a bleak, almost post-apocalyptic community made up of prostitution, drug use, abandoned houses, poverty and high crime rates. Unseen and unheard of by most, Kensington Avenue is a community hidden away from the mainstream majority, though in reality, a similar area exists within every urban city.
Kensington Blues, a photoblog started by Jeffrey Stockbridge in 2008, chronicles the inhabitants of Kensington Ave. Largely populated by drug users and dealers, Stockbridge fell into the idea of photographing these locals while working on a project focused on nearby abandoned homes.
“I first learned of Kensington from a woman I photographed in West Philly. I was working on a different project at the time, documenting the interiors of abandoned houses and the people who adopt them as shelter,” Stockbridge told me in an interview. “I met a woman named Millie. She was selling sex for drugs and told me all about Kensington… Once I arrived, I knew I had a project here. There were countless women standing on corners working as prostitutes. Drug dealing was happening all around me.”
“Many people tell me outright that they want their story to be heard by as many people as possible,” Stockbridge said. “They want to discourage others from going down the path that they did. They want to help others who are going through the same shit they are. Sharing honest accounts of the hard lives many are living in Kensington has the ability to empower both the storyteller and the listener. It’s cathartic.”
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