Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia is infamous for drug abuse and prostitution. The Avenue runs 3 miles through what is now a dangerous and crime-ridden neighborhood. Kensington Blues is a photography series by Jeffrey Stockbridge, 36, that documented the struggles and the dark reality of local residents.
Between 2008 and 2014, the photographer took a series of intimate portraits of people capturing a side of Philadelphia that is rarely seen or talked about. The residents shared their stories, talking about drugs, prostitution and other struggles of their lives.
“The goal of my work is to enable people to relate to one another in a fundamentally human way, despite any commonly perceived differences”- Jeffrey shared on his website. “I rely on the trust and sincerity of those I photograph to help me in this process.”
Take a look at the powerful images below.
“We out here so we can get money so we has somewhere to rest our heads. We look out for each other. If I can’t get money, she gets it, and whatever money we get we share…We need quick money cause we need somewhere to sleep every day. I mean, trust me, we don’t want to be out here doing this. This is the last thing I want to do….
“We out here so we can get money so we has somewhere to rest our heads. We look out for each other. If I can’t get money, she gets it, and whatever money we get we share…We need quick money cause we need somewhere to sleep every day. I mean, trust me, we don’t want to be out here doing this. This is the last thing I want to do. But I do what I have to do to take care of my sister. Cause she’s all I got and I’m all she’s got.”
Al lives in a house off Kensington Avenue without electricity or running water. He sometimes rents his upstairs bedroom to prostitutes in need of a private location for engaging in sex and drug use.
“I’m 55 years old, I have a master’s degree in psychology, but after my husband, mother and father, died in a car accident two years ago, I lost my whole family, my career, one, my health, all in one go.”
She told that she often sleeps on the streets during the day to protect herself at night.
They still have children, whom they gave away to a special agency for their protection. “We gave the kids away, people say it’s a selfish act, but I think it’s the best I could do for their better future,” Rachel said.
She is 25 years old, working in the sex industry since she was 18.
“I’ve been raped, and, you know, almost killed really”
A local resident, at the time she was 41. Carol told the photographer that she had been doing heroin for 21 years and it became “the love of her life”.
The veins in Sarah’s arms were no good for injection, so she asked Dennis for the drug to be injected to her neck.
“I don’t just do this for drugs. I do this because I wanna eat, because I like to buy clothes, because I like the small things, you know. I did have a normal life once but…I really believe, like if my, if my family say like, “Mary come, come home stay with us” like, if I could I would…”
He struggled with drug addiction after being released from prison. Sepsis developed in his left leg. Because of his addiction, he failed to meet the treatment regimen and eventually the doctors had to amputate part of the leg.
Matt shoots Brian in the neck in front of the McPherson Square Library on Kensington Avenue. It’s 10 AM on Sunday morning.
Maria: “Iâ€™ve been here almost 8 years and I see a lot of bad stuff going around. They say when you go between it, you gonna do it too.” Robert: “You donâ€™t need no cable, you donâ€™t have to watch TV. You just gotta sit out here. You see drama, you see soap opera, you see violence and crime.” Maria: “You even see sex.”
“I donâ€™t really ask people for a lot, I get my money, like I donâ€™t like to, cause a lot of times to get people to take care of you, you have to lie to them. And then lead them on and make them think that you’re gonna get clean. And then, and then it ends up getting to be too much, where theyâ€™re trying to control what you do….
“I donâ€™t really ask people for a lot, I get my money, like I donâ€™t like to, cause a lot of times to get people to take care of you, you have to lie to them. And then lead them on and make them think that you’re gonna get clean. And then, and then it ends up getting to be too much, where theyâ€™re trying to control what you do. And Iâ€™d rather just get the money and end it at that with no strings attached cause I donâ€™t need someone following me around, trying to track me down like, trying to drop me off at rehabs and shit.”
“I went into rehab, for, like, snorting cocaine, taking oxies, perks, and I met people that did dope and smoked crack, and, you know, like, one thing led to another, and I was just, I was, I wanted to try it, and I did.”
“I sold a lot of drugs and was involved with a lot of like, stuff that had to do with shooting guns and all. Most of it was uh selling drugs and collecting money that was owed to me and it caused me getting into a lot of trouble.”
“What Iâ€™m doing I really donâ€™t particularly care to be doing, but I do it anyway, and Iâ€™m not ashamed of it ’cause if I was ashamed of it, I wouldnâ€™t do it….Until I decide to change itâ€™s what Iâ€™m gonna do. Hopefully, like, the will of God…will make me strong enough and give me the determination to stop and get some help.”