Where Does Philly Stop?

If there’s no picture perfect skyline,

is it even Philly anymore?

Even if the schools are the same,

cockroach stuffed and lackluster,

educating only that education isn’t worth it

when it’s all for show to earn

money that the mayor now borrows from mystery sources

because we weren’t good enough to earn it.

When you and all your friends get scattered,

lucky enough to get out of the borders,

because here your C is a one way ticket to burger flipping,

but a C there is penn state admission.


Does it stop being Philly enough with the crime rate?

When there’s no more gun shots?

When you know who mugs you,

cause it’s just a way to bully you?

When your dealer’s just another kid,

a high school dropout, in his parents basement?

Where the crimes are committed by drunk teenagers,

and the cops let them get away with it,

cause they’re never gonna make it,

might as well have fun before they got their own kids?


How about how we act with each other,

is it a different Philly then?

When the neighbor girl is crying,

since someone killed her boyfriend,

and your whole family’s there for her,

is that any different,

then how anyone in this city would act

if someone they knew was hurting?


Does Philly stop before it’s close to the edge.

Because the kids across the street got it better,

more money, nicer houses, that don’t reflect

the side of the street still in the border,

where the houses are old and meticulously kept,

prided in despite the too hot summers, and the

not-enough-insulation winters.

Where the basement floods a little, smells a little,

the mold might make you sick a little.


Does Philly stop cause all you know,

are skyscrapers and corner stores?

Because you’re all about Philly,

as long as your friends back home think,

it’s all h&m’s and police alerts.

Does it stop when you don’t know,

or don’t share the part that looks like

every other rundown working class suburb,

in your hometown?

The part where you know how your life’s gonna go,

move two blocks away from your parents.

Even though it’s just as real,

is it not cool enough, or tough enough

for you to associate it,

with the city you adopted?


A Place to Call Home.

We appreciate what we have because we are aware of what we lack.

We appreciate the sunrise because we know we have another day to do good and be great.


We appreciate the weekend because we have the week.


We appreciate the new life that spring brings, because we experience the emptiness, the dry, cracking, barren winter


We appreciate the fall because we swelter through the heat waves of summer.


We appreciate art because it tells a story.


We appreciate our family when our friends have turned their backs on us.


We appreciate the smiles of our friends when we need an extra layer of support and unconditional love.


We appreciate the beauty that surrounds us because we have seen otherwise.


We appreciate the strong sense of community because we know we cannot stand alone.


We appreciate the grit of our city, our home-Philadelphia- because without it, we would not see the beauty so clearly.


We appreciate the grit of our city because it makes it easy to see the beauty, not just in the scenery, but the opportunity, experiences, people, and culture that make our city our home.

Beauty of the Week

As an urbex photographer in Philadelphia, I find all sorts of interesting things in the buildings I explore, such as this door with these magazine cutouts. The photographs and their connection to the idea of “grit and beauty” are self-explanatory. But they do more than express the juxtaposition of grit and beauty that we can find everywhere in our city. They are a metaphor for the changes our society goes through. Photographs like these would not be found in magazines and other media formats today, as our views of women have moved in a direction that is farther from reality. This building was only vacated in the early 2000s and these photographs can’t be much older than 19 or 20 years old. But it’s incredible to see how much our society’s ideas of what women “should” look like has changed. It is also amazing to see how much a building deteriorates and changes in a decade or two. Philadelphia’s countless abandoned structures are artworks waiting to happen.

somewhere in philly

A vine of morning glories grew out of the broken

speckled cement in the empty lot where men beg

for change and cars blow the light, where

the stray cats piss on the couch without

cushions. The lily climbed the braid

of the chain link and no one watered it

but the rain and no one tended it but

it budded and at dawn the blossoms unfurl

even if no one is watching. And at dusk they

twist shut.

The Center / Philadelphia

The Center

You want to be its center.

If the city was a lover and the lover was

asleep, you’d want to be the small

concentration of darkness between her pursed lips.

You want to be what the buses lurch around, and

you want to be all four

lanes of Gerard. If the city was a lover you’d

love nightfall when you could kiss her scars and

see her eyes glitter like

onyx facing the flame.

She’d walk in in a black and white

outfit out of a black and white movie and

you’d be proud you were hers. But by twelve

she’d have batted her lashes and blackened

your eye. Her voice would be like blues

and pinks and shattering glass and she’d

forget you were coming over.

If this city was a lover you’d want to be her ruin.

But you’d settle for being

just a run in her tights.



The year I moved away I fell in love

with everything I’d forsaken.

Mostly I thought of how she used to pass the nights

beside me. How her sleep had been a long

blue starless exhale. How she looked

cast in bronze by the streetlights.

She coughed smoke through the night and never

let herself be held, but there was erudition

in her harshness and even when she’d hurt me

she didn’t mean me any harm.

So yes, after I left I thought of her- the lovely, lonely murmuring

of sparse cars on her freeway. The shudder

as each underground train ran her length.

I mourned the gray electric-current symphony

of the city, a september rain turning black in the gutters like

tears stripping makeup away, a gunshot

and then only the sighing and sowing of the atmosphere.

She took me back.

Now I sleep with the window open  so I can hear

her  in the dark and try

to imagine what she’s dreaming.


Philadelphia, grit and beauty

grandarents, concert yay, and of course friends and such too 615 - Copy (2) Creativity


renfaire, halloween, and all inbetween 334 - CopyDecay


linfield-a lot of that. first of school year two 381 - Copy Cultured people


262925_230438730333790_8313257_n Entertainment

grandarents, concert yay, and of course friends and such too 643 - Copy Recycling, Art



Philadelphia: A canvas

There is a stillness beneath the chaos,

beauty beneath broken glass,

eternal life among destruction,

hymns of life from those you pass.

Philadelphia is a canvas,

a clean state yearning for shades of blue and green,

the empty space, quite beautiful within itself,

radiates a tranquility so pristine.

Yet, our city is colored by stories,

diverse cultures and backgrounds fill the dense air,

collaboration and differing perspectives,

shed a newfound light on those unaware.

Grit is the essence of beauty,

our struggles brings awareness to pride,

successions painted among our canvas,

abstract in nature-with each passing stride.

Philadelphia holds unimaginable beauties,

beauties that may not always be within direct sight,

yet in order to create our stories,

we must begin by filling our canvas with light.











18th and Diamond- Kyle Powell

18th and Diamond

Barbed wire spirals around the top of a fence

The overgrowth of dirty weeds became quite dense

The vivid colors can take you away from this block

Make you see pas the dirt between cracked sidewalk


The green as neon as a Friday night on South

A blue royal and majestic as one of the rivers’ mouth

Highlights the message and the cartoon drawings

But turning away from it we hear calling and bawling


“Defend the Future” it says in green block letters

Staying strong on the corner no matter the weather

18th and Diamond amidst both student and local

But the Jetson’s motif is what makes it so vocal


Painted by the students, the youth of this city

Who could imagine someone so young making something so pretty

Going to the north end is not a safe place for us all

But despite our fears this message stands tall

Non-Temple Student

Never knew and it never mattered.

Love lost and roughly interrupted

Wooden windows and a bottle shattered

Midnight arrived and the block erupted.

One moon illuminates two dark worlds

Not a star in the electric sky,

Shrieking, stumbling high heeled girls

Chase a fix as the bus blows by.

But that tragic e-mail quickly deleted

Tells of violent scenes outside your door

and an old soul so wholly defeated

by a disease that shook him to the core.

So mind yourself, remain ever prudent

and mourn the loss of a non-Temple student

walking in philly / the Alley / Pressure Point

walking in philly

is Philly beautiful despite its grit?

is there just enough heart and art

that the stains can’t hide it

and when walking down the street

you see the gorgeous classic facade

of that row home-hidden underneath?

or is Philly beautiful because of its grit?

is the roughness around the edges

what makes the city so legit

unique, lived in. you walk around for a day

and find eloquently cracked pavement

and ephemerally alluring alleyways

is it both?

the Alley

alone in the city.

alone in the city.


Being alone in the city is unavoidable.  Everyone has moments in a back alleyway by themselves, whether it’s a familiar or unknown place.  Whether we realize or not, we all know the surroundings of dumpsters, sewers, graffiti, rust, and silence where we can have our thoughts to ourselves with the backdrop of the city giving us the freedom of anonymity.

Pressure Point

that moment.

that moment.


There is a moment you feel.  It is strong your first time here.  You are just filled with adrenaline in your guts and you hear everything: the yells and beeps and even the humming of the fluorescent light.  It’s a pure instant of pressure. The first time it feels like an uncontrollable wave and you are scared-what if you miss it or mess up somehow?  You’re on your own.  But eventually you realize that it’s a tornado and YOU are the eye of the storm and learn to drift calmly through the chaos of the Broad Street Line and appreciate what you see for what it is.

Now that’s a tasty grit

eat junktrain station cleveland subbie sunny tats alley market frankford kid

Grit & Beauty…The Sublime & Allure

Over my five years of schooling at Temple University in Philadelphia I have always appreciated the unique characteristics of this city. As being an Architecture major, details really protrude its presence that are personally visually pleasing. Addressing Grit & Beauty I like to think of it more as The Sublime and Allure. Enjoy.


City of Brotherly Love.
Love for arts and diversity.

Represented in the Architecture.

Designed transparency.
Through the built and textured environment.

Layered through cognitive experiences.
Journeys through the grid of lingering industrialization.

Every static turn of indeterminacy.
Mentally developed from the differentiated context of the city…

Center of the network.
Accented with intricate horizontal and vertical components.

Orientation for dispersing.
Small scale algorithms strung across nodes.


Suspended with boundaries of fluidity.
Reinforced from transcending opacities.

Points forcing in and mirrored back out to exteriors.
Interactions of program.


Tailored with fruitful splashes of life.
Providing cultural swatches.

Safety in familiarity.
Consciousness that enforces movements of habit while exploring the city.


Composition of perception framed in shifting platforms.
Tilts and tastes of a polished participation.

Inevitably weathered.
Unveiling its history in time lapse.


In the eroded pit of imperfections.
Main ingredients for upheaving.

Stirred by the community.
Needed heat and collaboration to thrive from the more flavorful.


The broad spectrum of hues.
Erect along the streets.

Intertwining a larger vision.
Sight of hope.


Sunset of dreams.
Determination for a brighter future.

Education as the demarcation barrier.
Unfenced and welcoming.


Room for endless creative souls.
Sprinkle there talents in little nooks.

Places and spaces of the city canvas.
Acknowledgement towards translation of what is desired.


A balance of contrasting facades.
Eludes to the inner strength of this city.

Unique pieces to a whole is the backbone for steps into the future.


Philly Taught Me

ask here chair tower dino Dorm View

If you saw Philadelphia through my eyes you would see museums, friends, dorms, TEMPLE, and memories that will last a lifetime. Philadelphia has been one of my greatest teachers!

Philadelphia – the Broad Side of Erie

Erie Station (598x800)

Grit. Beauty. Lights. My Love: Philadelphia Through Pictures

The day I moved to Philadelphia, the city greeted me with a warm but chilly embrace. Day by day, with every breath and step I take, I am taking this city in. The grit and beauty of its people, the beauty of its vibrant eye catching sunsets and rich clouds, the grit of its undeniably beautiful artwork, the beauty of its nature, the odd grit and beauty of its buildings, and the exhilarating feeling its bright city lights put in your soul..this is the city of Philadelphia.

The following is Philadelphia through pictures.

Cheerful New Friends/ Silent Amish Woman/ Silly Shadows/ Sweet Strangers

Cheerful New Friends/ Silent Amish Woman/ Silly Shadows/ Sweet Strangers

Vibrant Eye Catching Sunsets and Rich Clouds

Vibrant Eye Catching Sunsets and Rich Clouds






Undeniably Beautiful Artwork

Undeniably Beautiful Artwork

Philadelphia Nature

Philadelphia Nature

























Beautiful Architecture and Buildings on the Water in Philadelphia

Beautiful Architecture and Buildings on the Water in Philadelphia

1376654_10201539947212078_361516059_n 1379509_10201539946612063_441444237_n

Curiosity in the City

Curiosity in the City


A Vision of Hope

A Vision of Hope

A Wonderful Watercolor Wonderland on a City Wall

A Watercolor Wonderland on a City Wall

The Gritty Beauty of the Penitentiary Hallways

The Gritty Beauty of the Penitentiary Hallways

1381640_10201544454244751_522624391_n 1382804_10201544454124748_924829378_n 1385393_10201544453484732_312124184_n 1383607_10201544452964719_1159998502_n

Lights, Life and Color in the City of Philedelphia

Lights, Life and Color in the City of Philadelphia

Lights, life and Color in the City of Philadelphia

Lights, Life and Color in the City of Philadelphia

1001598_10201600860454871_466933446_n 1384186_10201600860734878_1884978645_n

Lights, Life and Color in the City of Philadelphia

Lights, Life and Color in the City of Philadelphia

Lights, Life and Color in the City of Philadelphia

Lights, Life and Color in the City of Philadelphia



1385397_10201544474045246_1646531032_n 1374972_10201544474205250_227838501_n















After two and a half months here, I will always and forever love this city..

My city of Grit and Beauty.

My city of Philadelphia.











Grit and Beauty of Philadelphia


Philadelphia, where we are able to see and feel all four seasons. The seasons in Philadelphia can be portrayed as  beautiful and gritty through the different phases of the trees. In the spring, the trees start to blossom and grow new leaves. In the summer, the trees are fully dressed in luscious green leaves. In the fall, the leaves start to change colors: red, yellow, orange, and brown. However, each leaf starts to fall to the ground, one by one, as each leaf still retains its color. Unfortunately, the leaves start to pile and turn brown. These brown leaves are now considered gritty and are raked and put into the trash. By the time, all the leaves are raked and trashed, winter has come upon us and the trees are now bare. Thankfully, in Philadelphia, the seasons return and we get to experience the beautiful cycle every year.

Boats City Hall Fairmount Park LOVE Temple

Dancing Around Philly

Grit and Beauty – Meredith Hebert

Trudging along the muddled city street

The soles of my boots scrape against the pavement

Along I drag like a lit cigarette

My head slumped, hazels toward the concrete

Tiny specs scatter the sidewalk

Blurring my vision, I see stars

Crumbled up pieces of paper

Words left unsaid, left behind

Gum sticks, wrappers stuck

Balls of hair dance about like tumbleweeds

Loose change, tails up, no luck

Clutter, grime, dirt, grit

Alluring in its own

Until I spot an extinct treasure

Sitting proud, poking through a small crack

Minuscule to the average eye

Green leaves sprout

Glistening against the morning sun

A violet wildflower blooms

Undisturbed by the bustling city

A rare Van Gogh on the street

Forgotten beauty beneath my feet

As I still trudge along

A smirk crosses my lips

5:59PM-7:21PM / Focus Here! It’s Philadelphia / up view of Philadelphia




Focus Here! It’s Philadelphia

Focus Here! It's Philadelphia


up view of Philadelphia

Focus here, It's Philly!



A short film of a foggy day in Philadelphia…


One Day

My first time walking through Center City
I caught myself staring.

There were buildings made of glass and steel,
touching clouds I didn’t know could be reached.

“One day,” I told myself,
“One day, I’ll be in one of those buildings.

One day this will be my home.”

I saw a man on the street corner,
his clothes were rags.

He held a violin and coaxed melodies
that made my heart sing.

Walking down South Street I saw
art in ways I had never even imagined.

I saw the woman begging for change
for her next fix of some white powder.

I watched a man as he gave her
a hot cup of coffee instead.

“One day,” I told myself,
“One day, I will be like him.

One day, this will be my home.”

It’s a far cry from mountains and rivers
and neighbors who know each others’ names.

It’s not the Pocono’s, or the Valley,
or even remotely familiar to me.

But one day, this will be my home,
and I love it for all its faults.

Look Around

Its hard to note what Philly implies

when you read between its



blurred by cacophonous subway rides

Unplug your headphones and you will find:

Cops playing peekaboo with a child

mothers laughing meek

and mild

students fretting over exams gone by

We are Philly.

Hidden Views of Philadelphia

Abandoned Classroom Roof of Abandoned School Rock Garden in Fairmount Park Philly Skyline


Homeless Celebration
To truly understand Philly, one must first understand the city’s homeless. Perhaps more than any other major American city, Philadelphia’s homeless have a character unto themselves. Asking for money in Philly is an art. There is are a cappella quartets who attempt to sing money out of the pockets of passerby deep in the City Hall subway stop, their sorrowfully soulful voice their only tool. There is a back flipping-hobo who asks his audiences for “just a dollar for the show.” There are of course the (literal) lazy bums who spend their days sitting on benches and sidewalks asking for money, but there are also bums like Tom-Tom and his female counterpart (read: prostitute). Tom-Tom is one of the hoard of homeless that hangs out near Temple’s campus who distinguishes himself by telling all his “Temple homies” that if they “run into any trouble around these parts” to “just tell them old Tom-Tom got your back.” (Let it be noted that the information, true or not, has just recently come to me that Tom-Tom is actually a pimp, making him something of a Renaissance-hobo).
There are homeless that ask for money while wearing nicer shoes than the ones you may have on, as well as the obvious drug addicts and drunks who ask for “money for food” but stand directly outside of liquor stores (though it must be noted that in Philly the proximity of liquor stores to just about everything is quite astounding). This variety of beggars leads those new to Philadelphia who have any semblance of common sense to really think about where their charity is most appreciated and best deserved. Does it belong in the hands of the most talented (i.e. the backflipper or quartet) or the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Watch (i.e. Tom-Tom)? Sadly, more often than not, this bombardment of beggars leads to less money actually being doled-out amongst the group of them as a whole; especially on and around Temple’s campus, there are plenty of repeat-beggars, who will instantly memorize and flock to anyone who has ever given them money before. For instance, a homeless man once prefaced asking an acquaintance of mine for money by saying that he had “found his wallet, didn’t he remember?”

Who Are You?
One seemingly harmless evening, on my way to a ‘Sixers game with some friends on the subway, trouble was afoot. What started out as a simple trip from point A to point B on the subway (in actuality the Cecil B. Moore subway stop to the At&T Center one) soon became, in a philosophical sense, so much more. All was calm, and all was black. Again my three friends (two white, one Indian) and I found ourselves the least heavily pigmented people on the subway until she waltzed on. Or he stomped on. All gazes shifted to and focused on the spectacle that had just boarded the subway. The white, presumably still male, cross-dresser had made her entrance onto the train, strutted her stuff back and forth up and down the aisle a for a few stops, and then gotten off as magnificently as she had gotten on. It was debatable whether those on the subway turned their heads more because there was a cross-dresser on the train, or because that cross-dresser just so happened to be white.

There is a certain worldliness and expanded point of view gifted to (read: forced upon) those who live in cities. And Philadelphia, at its heart, is a laid-back city. People move a little slower (the proportional graph representing the decrease in speed the further south and west one goes in this country holds true here too), are a little bit more friendly, and best of all, are a bit more truly underground. “Philly is a very pierced, tattooed city,” said my very pierced, tattooed barber once during a haircut in the Chop Shop on South Street, perhaps one of the most pierced, tattooed streets in Philly. And it is true. And this offers a good segue into the final lens I would like to offer through which to view the city of Philadelphia, though in truth there are countless more than could be given.
Philly offers an entrance into the true underground, if only you put a little effort into looking for it. The underground scene in Philly is more tangible, more real than the most famous one in New York City, because it is by rule more gritty, less centered on image, and most importantly less wealthy. The underground or hipster scene in New York City is the symbol, the flag-bearer of all other like movements this whole country over. But it lacks soul. New York City may be the only place on earth that is more judgmental of your shoes than your race, religion, or background, and this is not necessarily all good. Big Apple hipsters are trendy, fashionable, and at the moment, cool. But by and large they lack soul. This has to be linked to the state of the art scene in New York City, where without connections (even if the talent is there) one is lost. But Philly is a cheaper city to live in than New York, and it therefore draws more real life struggling artists; for many of such an ideology, Philly is the beacon of hope. While this may result in a rougher, less prestigious overall art, underground, and hipster scene, it also results in one full of soul, full of the kind of soul that only come through in a historically black, historically struggling city. It may look less polished, may be in fact less competitive (it is the City of Brotherly Love, is it not?) and may lack the names that New York City has, but it results in Philly being a truly, unassumingly, proudly bohemian city.
So Philadelphia is, has been, and will probably remain a beautifully ugly, sadly happy, novelly old city, a city whose one true claim (at least at the moment) to sustainability is the sustainability of its decay. It is a troubling city for some, a wildly inspirational place for others, and both for more.

Our Eternal Summer

Memories of last summer are eternal

Images rush to my head of who we once were

Walks through Rittenhouse,

The caramel macchiato you brought me every Tuesday morning before work

The times you let me think I beat you in Madden 13

The day I found out that you were allergic to walnuts

I thought I could love you forever.


I hear your laugh, I feel your kiss

My days drag on without you

I wish to cry out “I hate you”, but I know I never will

I want your tears to mirror mine; I’m slowly accepting that they never will

I thought you would love me forever.


The memories are distant now but the pain still exists

You were once mine: the walks, the macchiato, even the fights

I would give anything to hear the bass in your voice rising

I always knew what came next: forgiveness and reconciliation

I thought you’d always come back to me


I’m trembling at the thought of next summer

Secretly wishing to see you in that coffee shop

Possibly ordering our favorite drink with the chocolate scones you like

I remember how your love rained down on me like the midsummer showers

I think I’ll love you forever.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Photo credits to Michael Horwath. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License

The Grit and Beauty of Philadelphia

My Philadelphia


Sometimes people don’t realize the beauty of Philadelphia. I want people to realize how beautiful Philadelphia is when they look at my photos. I have seen a poster that says, “the Earth without “Art” is just “eh”, that means Earth wouldn’t exist without Art.  Photography plays a very important role in my life. I see things differently, so I decided to shoot them differently from a different angle. I use photography to bring my imaginative ideas to reality and also to express my feelings. I also use my Photos to get a message across because sometimes it hard to get a message across by talking so I illustrate my message through photography and art. I see certain things differently so I use my photos to show others my viewpoint. I can’t imagine Earth without Art, Art is very important in each and every one of our lives even though some don’t realize it. Through photography I have used photos to capture the moments and history of my life.  Thanks to Photography now I can go back to recapture some of the good and bad memories of my life. This would not be possible without the pictures of my childhood. Through my photos, I want to make sure the future generation knows the importance of art.

-Alpha Kanu ‘16

Erie to Cecil B.

Erie to Cecil B.

Alyssa Zoto


The pungent smell of urine and trash crept up my nostrils

As made my way down three sets of crumbling stairs

Into the cold underground.


Loneliness and his friend Fear tickled my neck

Dark faces kept quietly to themselves

An old drunk man teetered along the edge


Loud rumbling of steel on steel clambered past

Rushing wind gathered my hair

The metal subway came to a screeching halt.


The doors invited me to enter.

I sat beside a large black woman,

Wearing a pair of bright pink scrubs

Littered with plush teddy bears


“Does this train stop at TempleUniversity?” I asked

“Yes,” she smiled

“Thank you ma’am”, I replied.


Her face balled every so tightly together

The faintest hint of her smile

Holding back the loudest emotion.


The cab of that bustling steel horse tossed me

Along its orange plastic seats.

But the woman sat still


Was it was her size?

Or the weight of her conscience

Holding her in that seat?


Staring into the flickering of the lights

As they passed steel beams and windows.

My stop approached.


The doors ushered me out

I turned to the woman, “Thank you ma’am”

Her face, so warm and gentle, replied,“You’re welcome”


A tear clung to each corner of her eye

So young they had yet to fall

I exited the train and took a few steps


Guilt grabbed me from behind

Eyes stinging with anguish

Each thought was like a grain of sand,

Sinking through an hour glass


My fists tightened,

Teeth clenched

Bone against bone


Stopping in my tracks,

I began running back

Through a crowd of unknowing bodies.


As I got there

The doors closed in front of me

She was gone.