When visitors come to the City of Brotherly Love, a typical spot on an all-out Philly tour always ends up being at the Philadelphia Museum of Art—or more so, the steps in front of it.
‘Rocky’ first came out in 1976, and many can recall the young and gritty Sylvester Stallone running his way through the different neighborhoods of Philly, eventually ending his citywide run with a sprint up the PMA’s steps. With his hands raised and the desire of victory pulsing through his veins, the view of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway after he makes his way to the top is something that many movie-goers remember. And they want to mirror that sentiment.
But what about those who maybe haven’t seen the film, or who just simply don’t know about Rocky altogether? Coming to Philadelphia, there’s always a line at the famous statue that now sits at the bottom of the steps as an ode to the boxer, and you’ll see tourists and locals alike still attempting to do the run up the steps just as Stallone did over 40 years ago.
“The first time I visited Philly was the summer of 1979. I was in love, living in Milwaukee and brought my bride-to-be, East, to meet my older brother and sister-in-law [who] lived in Philly. During this trip we went to the Art Museum and were confused by all the people running to the top of the stairs and waving their arms. Not being movie fans, it took us a while to realize what was going on,” explains Zave Smith.
Zave Smith is a Philadelphia based photographer and storyteller through pictures. In his latest series, ‘Rocky’s Steps,’ he remembers just how perplexing the image of people using the steps as an ode to the film was. And even a decade later after moving to the City of Brotherly Love himself, it’s still an idea that he considers absorbing.
“Ten years later, we moved to this wonderful city, and I still find phenomena very interesting,” Smith continues. “Rocky came out in 1976. Forty-six years later, people from all over the world come to reenact those scenes from that film. How much longer is this going to be happening? In 2250, will visitors to Philly still be running up those steps?”
With the Rocky legacy still alive, well and recently revamped through the ‘Creed’ series, it seems as though there is a rebirth to the idea that the Philadelphia Museum of Art‘s steps will continue to draw numerous crowds at a time. Smith has been in the photography business in Philadelphia for over three decades, and ‘Rocky’s Steps’ is his latest creative look at one of the city’s main destinations.
It goes a bit deeper than just Philadelphia, however. It’s also in the category of many other locales in different states, countries and territories around the world that have their own unique sights to see.
“I have this idea, there are a few places in the world that you can hang out in and eventually, you will meet almost everyone you ever knew,” describes Smith. “The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., The steps of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. Anybody who visits these cities, also visits these world-renowned locations. If you have friends who travel, one day they are going to visit NYC or Philly and you will meet them at these iconic spots, if you are patient enough to wait.”
And it might happen. With the steps not only offering a pathway into movie magic, but also a regular meet-up stop for friends, a destination for those looking to have a low-key lunch, an opportunity to sit and view the city, and so much more.
“What is unique about Philly’s Art Museum steps is that it is used by locals as much as tourists. For every visitor with Rocky dreams there is a local who is just getting a workout. I also discovered that for many, it is just a nice place to hang and enjoy the view,” Smith continues. “The Art Museum Steps have in my experience become a place of joy. A delightful mixing of locals and visitors who run or walk up those steps to be the best that they can be, or at least enjoy the view.”
No matter what tourists or locals are at the steps for, the takeaway seems to be the same—strength, tenacity, jubilation, and a sense of being able to conquer the world, one leap at a time. No boxing gloves needed.