Lancaster Avenue
Turn of the Millennium 2000-09

In memory of Kyree Cohen

One day in 2000, I got out of my car on Lancaster to photograph a man who regularly picketed the incoming traffic with an indecipherable sign. Computer manipulation of the image revealed an unexpected message. I wanted to learn more about the places this man promoted with his faded sign. I became a tourist along my commuting route.

Over the next ten years,
I returned more than 40 times to photograph Lancaster Avenue between 39th and 63rd Streets.

In 2003, a boy on the street asked me, "Why you taking pictures of the ghetto"

"Because Lancaster Avenue is my ghetto."

The Lancaster corridor of West Philadelphia is revitalizing.  Many of the buildings and some of the murals I photographed are gone. Most of the store front churches and the taverns remain.

From 34th Street in Philadelphia, the Lancaster Pike runs 62 miles straight west through Amish farmlands to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This is the oldest, long-distance paved road in the United States. For nearly 300 years, the eastern terminus of the turnpike has been known as Lancaster Avenue.

I commute to work along Lancaster Avenue between my home in the suburban Main Line  just west of the city and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in West Philadelphia.

The communities at both ends of my daily commute are wealthy and influential. In between, the West Philadelphia neighborhoods of Powelton, Belmont, Mantua and Overbrook are poor and dangerous.

For years I drove through those places with doors locked and windows raised, immersed in National Public Radio and oblivious to my surroundings.

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