Thought for the day

"I just wonder what it would be like to be reincarnated in an animal whose species had been so reduced in numbers than it was in danger of extinction. What would be its feelings toward the human species whose population explosion had denied it somewhere to exist.... I must confess that I am tempted to ask for reincarnation as a particularly deadly virus." -- Prince Philip, in his Forward to "If I Were an Animal" - United Kingdom, Robin Clark Ltd., 1986.

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These photographs, taken by John Frank Keith, depict working-class Philadelphians, individually, and as groups standing on sidewalks, in front of street scenes, and sitting at stops. The subjects in most of his photographs were not identified. Despite his day job as a bookkeeper, Keith managed to find time to pursue his interest in photography. He traveled from his home in the Kensington area to parts of South Philadelphia to take photographs of residents in front of their homes. He even experimented with night photography from the terrace of the family home, within which he maintained his dark room. Never asked for payment for his photographs, often gifting them to the people he had photographed. Keith's unofficial collection is more than a collection of individuals: it's an intimate portrait of the neighborhood in the 1920s. Working in a documentary style reminiscent of Lewis Hine, but without Hine's social activism, Keith poses community members—usually children—in front of his urban row houses. His cheap camera kept a consistent distance from subjects, and his amateur-quality lens was responsible for a bit of a lack of focus at the edge of the picture. Had he stood away, the camera blur would have been great; Standing nearby, he would have lost all reference to the neighborhood.