Jerome must have seen me photographing in the streets before he eagerly approached me to ask a question. “You ever take pictures of the guys doing this job? We the ones out here actually making sure this place looks good, but it doesn’t seem like too many people care. This company helps a lot of guys fresh out the penitentiary have work - they helped me.” His energy during our conversation left me no doubt that he is a strong-minded man who is proud of working, but it was also obvious he was frustrated with others potentially looking down on him and his colleagues for doing a job every community can’t live without. His parting words were a plea to change how people perceive them, if I was in the position to do so.
A Father and His Child #1
Urban and low income communities continue to be bombarded by the stereotype of the absentee father; often overlooking the factors that contribute to many fatherless homes. I try my best to capture these tender moments between father and child in an attempt to bring awareness to the fact that there are plenty of dads out here trying to maintain a presence in their children’s lives.
A Gentleman Named Charles
I approached Charles to see if he knew anything about the privatization of Liberty State Park that was generating so much buzz at the time. He didn’t know much about it, but he did explain that he hopes they leave the park alone. Charles had just lost his wife. He told me that ever since she passed away, watching the water was an extremely calming act that wouldn’t exist if there was high traffic due to increased activity from businesses moving in.
“It’s one of the few places you can go for free and clear your mind in this city.”
A Father and His Child #2
Bonds Formed Among the Overlooked
I take a lot of photographs near commuter hubs; it’s where people of diverse backgrounds eventually end up on a daily basis. With downtown Jersey City rapidly gentrifying, it was made clear that the Journal Square area was next when they began construction of Journal Squared, a 3 tower luxury residential complex, back in 2014. So, around June of 2018, I started to document this change before it was too late.
The men in this photograph, particularly the individual in the center, are usually found outside of a deli across the street from the path train. Some days its fairly obvious he’s under the influence, but I decided to park myself in their little group to see what would happen; I was welcome. He made jokes about my camera, and started talking about how much he loved some of the guys that were standing around laughing at his antics. There was a genuine bond that couldn’t be broken among these overlooked members of the Jersey City community.
No Client, No Sale
Businesses targeting a specific ethnic demographic face the biggest challenges during rapid gentrification. When their core customer is driven out, and a new demographic moves in, there’s often no longer a need for the products that were meant to serve the community that couldn’t find what they needed at common retail locations. That’s capitalism; it’s true, but there’s still a part of me that empathizes with these entrepreneurs — particularly owners who themselves identify with the ethnicity they provide services for — who have to close their doors simply because their people no longer exist.
Implosion of Montgomery Gardens
On August 29, 2015, the housing projects known as Montgomery Gardens were imploded. The site was undoubtedly a place of violence and criminal activity, but considering there were around 1200 units, I find it hard to believe that majority of its residents were the cause of this reputation; leading the actions of few to determine the fate of many. The choice to live wherever one wishes is a privilege granted by socioeconomic status that is unlikely to be remedied anytime soon. If at all.
A retired boxer, Robert Evans’ last fight was a decision loss against Trevor Berbick on November 24, 1987. “When you go home, watch the fight and tell me who won. There’s a lot of bullshit in boxing.” I asked him how he ended up out here doing work for CDS keeping the area clean, and he explained that he was receiving social security benefits, but was extremely bored and needed some way to spend his time. “I would still be boxing if I could.” Few individuals are fortunate enough to be able to truly retire, but boredom is a story I’ve heard in the past as a motivator for finding work. Robert is yet another important contributor to the success of a gentrifying area that who will likely be overlooked.
Politics, and Cultural Diversity #1
Jersey City’s division of Cultural Affairs certainly has important decisions to make when it comes to inclusion regarding the most diverse city in the entire country. This photograph was taken during the Sister Cities Signing Ceremony in which members of the delegation of west district of Ghana and Jersey City came together to commit to an allegiance of friendship, and learning about cultural and economic affairs. Here, Nanu Poku performs a dance for the audience in attendance.