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Looking for the Promised Land

virginia allyn | United States

A street in an area known as Beirut in Philadelphia. So many of the buildings are abandoned and boarded up.

"Do you really want to hear what I have to say?" a resident of West Baltimore asked.   What is like to live without money and opportunity, trapped in cycles of poverty and welfare and living in blight on dangerous, violent streets?  What do these streets look like? Through the lens of my camera I set about telling this story.   "I would call this the suffering," one man in North Philadelphia states.  There are so few opportunities,  so few jobs,  little to no investment in the neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, insufficient resources and living on crime ridden streets with abandoned buildings the value of life becomes low and survival had at any means.  Hope inspires change.  In such settings hope can be hard to come by.   "The only thing that's changing is the time and the day,"  one Baltimore resident comments.  But something has to change, to cancel out the great inequities that divide us so that there is a promised land for everyone.  "The streets are crying out.  Is anyone gonna answer?"  


 In the fall of 2009 I came upon the streets of an area of northeast Philadelphia known as "Beirut."  It was inconceivable that the streets I was walking and witnessing could exisit in the year 2009 in America.  The dire straights, the broken buildings, broken lives, a landscape of decay populated by the "have-nots" in our societ y.  Through the lens of my camera I set about capturing images of places where residents carry out their lives amidst and against the greatest of odds:  abject poverty, addiction, lack of opportunity, lack of tangible resources. The project expanded beyond streets of "Beirut" to include Kensington (also in NE Philadelpha), Camden, east and west Baltimore and Newark, NJ.

Some people might say people don't want change.  If they wanted change they would do something about it.  But then one would have to ask has society made an investment in its marginalized, or have they been left to be forgotten?  Has real economic development reached the Beiruts and Camdens or has it not stayed in the more highly visible, more prosperous places?  Are there sufficient resources for downtrodden communities to rise?

On any given day the hope for change has to be there and the opportunities to realize change. 



 Virginia Allyn

101 Lafayette Avenue    Brooklyn, New York 11217

718 422 7977



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