The Great Philly Fire

When: February 21, 2014

Where: Philadelphia, PA

The Story: Surprise visit to a friend on her birthday. We were to sleep on her couch, in the living room after a night of celebrating. The train from New York put us in late enough that going out never happened. We walked across town and stayed on Cherry Street, instead, with hopes to cook a birthday breakfast the following morning at 10am. When 8am hit, we got a phone call from the birthday girl: breakfast burritos needed to be postponed, they lost their apartment to a fire early that morning.

[It was incredibly windy, with snow on the ground and rain-kissed sidewalks. Amanda and I had just begun dating; she spoke on the telephone with her brother for what felt like hours through the stormy day and weather. I was nervous. For what she might be sharing with Matt. For the girls who bore only the clothes on their backs.]

Why: Too often, we share the overly "positive" things. This is a digital essay of film photographs taken that morning of the fire, as soon as we could get to the scene. The friends who lived there lost every "thing," but not everything. In fact, I have to believe that the giving spirit and light drawn from this dark day is a better portrait of the women who lived there. They had a tough go of it, but I believe, saw a staggering amount of love and support from their friends, families, and strangers. Although it is hard to look at these photos even from my perspective, it is important to remember these sorts of times, and to be able to share the stories that are both grim and beautiful. This happens to be one of my favorite portraits, given its context, I've ever taken. I merely felt it was my duty to capture the day in a format that would live on longer than that day, helping us remember when we forget.

Shot on: Nikon FG 50 mm 1.8, Kodak TMAX 400 B&W