A Walking Catalog


For the past several years I have actively noticed certain kinds of visual phenomena in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, using Instagram as a kind of public sketchbook. I photograph interrelated public phenomena, such as portable and ephemeral building structures, improvised street furniture, and informal sites of exchange that tell a story of local agency, adaptation, and community. When I travel in other cities around the US and abroad, I inevitably discover parallel phenomena. Our global systems are creating connections and symmetries in local responses to the precarity of this moment in history. 

The neighborhoods and communities I walk through often seem to be losing the debate between local needs (for food, shelter, community, commerce) and the global trends of economic stagnation, shifting climate changes, political estrangement. However, while sorting my Philadelphia catalog of images into typologies, I perceived a consistent improvised aesthetic that revealed a narrative of shared perseverance in the face of uncertainty and hardship. In cataloging these repeating patterns in our daily world, I found the informal temporary structures and ingenious vernacular designs to be evidence of a community determined to survive in the face of system collapse.

In the summer of 2015, I began doing research for Print Think 2016, Tyler’s annual one-day conference. That year the keynote speaker was Susan Tallman, and we wanted the theme to dovetail with concurrent issue of the publication she edits, Art in Print. After a fair amount of correspondence, we arrived at the theme of The Local and the Cosmopolitan. The research and conversations that surrounded this conference continue to push my thinking on this body of work forward.