Project & Licensing Info

Narbs: Portrait of a small-town in a big city

Photographer:

Project Description:

“Narbs” literally began in my backyard. I was in need of a creative stretch far from my usual way of working as a photojournalistic commercial and editorial photographer. I began by experimenting with a large format camera with antique lenses. The lenses are optically flawed and, even after a lot of experience, a bit unpredictable in how sharpness, depth of field, and contrast are rendered. I fell in love with this lack of precision, the serendipitous experience and, most importantly, the results.

The need to stretch creatively crossed paths with being settled into my life as a then 12-year resident of Narberth, PA. Narberth is a tiny 4,000 person borough two miles past the western edge of Philadelphia. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was a child and is where my wife and I are raising our children. Despite its metropolitan setting, Narberth is a small town in all ways, shy of the twelve-minute train ride to Center City Philadelphia. It’s a place, like many, where residents, “Narbs,” are fiercely devoted to preserving it’s well-earned charm even as change barrels through.

For most of its 125 years, Narberth was known as “the armpit of the Main Line” for being a working class town surrounded by Lower Merion Township (aka “The Main Line”), one of the wealthiest communities in the country. Changes began when families were leaving Philadelphia in the late 1980s in search of good schools and affordable housing. Today it has a regional reputation as idyllic for families of all stripes - even though it remains overwhelmingly White - with an enduringly provincial lifestyle. The changes are more about economics, class and politics than ethnicity or race. Many long-time residents speak with woeful nostalgia about the changes to the charm and lifestyle of “their Narberth” while newer residents speak with a reverence for this same rare charm in an urban setting. While they come at it from different points of view, both constituencies are fierce in their devotion to preserving the lifestyle of their community.

I wanted to use the dynamic of a beloved place experiencing change as the vehicle for my creative and narrative challenge. The pictures are intended to be presented with the words of the subjects to give context for the narrative the images give expression to. The goal is to give voice to the diverse points of view and to be a vehicle for engaging the community over common values if dissimilar dispositions. The ethereal quality of the lenses - which were made at about the same time the borough was founded - gives a distinct aesthetic that binds the portraits of the community together, despite varying points of view. The essence revealed in the images and words make clear that as much as this place is small and beloved, there are a range of lived realities that are equally true and understanding those differences comes from giving them all an equal hearing and due respect.

Cities 
Shot in:

Philadelphia
Narberth

States /
Provinces
Shot in:

Pennsylvania

Countries
Shot in:

USA / United States

Year
Started:

2018

Year
Finished:

In Progress

Themes:

Individuals
Regular People
Suburbs
Family

Specialties:

Documentary
Fine Art
Portrait
Landscape

Uses:

Advertising
Editorial
Fine Art Prints

Motion
Available:

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