Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia is well-known for its drug use and prostitution. The Avenue runs for three miles through a dangerous and crime-ridden neighborhood. Jeffrey Stockbridge, 36, documented the struggles and dark reality of local residents in his photography series Kensington Blues.
Between 2008 and 2014, the photographer captured a series of intimate portraits of people, capturing a side of Philadelphia that is seldom seen or discussed. The residents shared their stories, discussing drugs, prostitution, and other difficulties in 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.
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.”
#3 The Twins Tic Tac And Tootsie
“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.”
#4 Pat And Rachel
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 explained that she frequently sleeps on the streets during the day in order to protect herself at night.
“I’ve been raped and, you know, nearly killed.”
She’s 25 years old and has been in the sex industry since she was 18.
She was 41 years old and a local. Carol told the photographer that she had been using heroin for 21 years and that it had become “her life’s love.”
“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…”
#11 Sarah and Dennis
Because the veins in Sarah’s arms were not suitable for injection, she requested that the drug be injected into her neck.
#13 Matt Neal
#14 Kensington and Somerset Streets
Maria: “I’ve been here almost 8 years and have seen a lot of bad things. They say that if you go between it, you’ll do it too.” Robert: “You don’t need cable and you don’t have to watch television. You just have to sit here. You see drama, soap opera, and violence and crime.” “You even see sex,” Maria says.
#15 Neal, Matt
After being released from prison, he struggled with drug addiction. His left leg developed sepsis. Because of his addiction, he failed to adhere to the treatment regimen, and doctors were forced to amputate a portion of his leg.
#18 Melissa’s Arms
#22 Paul (left) and Anthony (right) in the Last Stop Recovery House’s Courtyard
#24 Matt and Brian
In front of the McPherson Square Library on Kensington Avenue, Matt shoots Brian in the neck. Sunday morning at 10 a.m.
“I don’t really ask people for a lot, I get my money, like I don’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 they’re trying to control what you do. And I’d rather just get the money and end it at that with no strings attached cause I don’t need someone following me around, trying to track me down like, trying to drop me off at rehabs and shit.”
#27 Diana With Her Kids
“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.”
#30 Woman On East Sterner Street
#36 Eric Kyle
“What I’m doing I really don’t particularly care to be doing, but I do it anyway, and I’m not ashamed of it ’cause if I was ashamed of it, I wouldn’t do it….Until I decide to change it’s what I’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.”
“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.”
#44 A Woman Stands On Kensington Ave