In part two of this week’s City Perspectives, Billy Cress (@billycress) contemplates the wide spectrum of life in Philadelphia, and gives us a mini history lesson. If you missed Part One, check it out here.
How would you describe the locals in your city? What are some stereotypes? Are they true?
Philly has a huge spectrum of people and life. I think there’s a big stereotype of Philadelphians being rude but I find the majority of people to be the opposite.
What is it about doors and building facades that draws you to capture them?
Although it’s obvious to point out a door as the main focal point, I’m usually confronting this subject as a home portrait. So I’m focusing on home or the idea of home, not just a door.
A lot of the time I’m looking at neighbors. What homes look like side by side. I like creating stories about neighbors. Do they work together on painting to create colors that play off each other? Or do they hate each other so much that they purposely choose wildly stilted colors and decorations? Are they completely oblivious to one another? Sometimes I’ll ask followers on Instagram “left or right?” It’s fun seeing what people choose. Sometimes they will explain their choice. I love reading everyone’s thoughts.
I look for what’s hung outside, interesting architecture, colors selected in paint or decorations. I look for odd aspects, beautiful attributes, tragic or ugly and decaying details. I like documenting the spectrum of life Philadelphia has.
My home portraits are about people when it comes down to it. How we choose to live or how we’re forced to live.
Describe the first place you’d bring an out-of-town guest. Why would you take them there before anywhere else?
It’s a very walkable city. I’d probably walk them from South Street Bridge on the Schuylkill River to Race Street Pier on the Delaware River through Center City neighborhoods. There’s so much to see and I think it shows Philadelphia really well.
Is there a tourist attraction that even locals (perhaps secretly) love? What is so special about it?
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a touristy spot that I think most of us who live here really enjoy. It has those famous steps that people swarm to but the view from the top is spectacular. And of course the collection of art inside isn’t too bad either.
What’s your favorite activity for a rainy day?
Eastern State Penitentiary is a great rainy day place to visit. It’s one of the touristy places that are fun.
Philadelphia is a hot spot for history buffs; what would you recommend as a must-see on a historically focused tour of the city?
There are obviously a lot of spots for historic tours here. I like self guided history lessons so I’d recommend a stop to Elfreth’s Alley in the Old City district. Elfreth’s is America’s oldest continually inhabited residential street. It’s eloquently maintained, cobble stoned and exactly early America. I probably thought of this first because of my interest in our homes here and our architecture.
What’s a little-known historical fact about Philly you think people should know?
One fact I always enjoyed is that Philly’s city flag is Blue and Yellow to commemorate the original Swedish colonization of the city.
Philadelphia has five major sports teams, the Flyers, Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, and Union. Where’s the best spot to watch a game?
I’ve been a ticket holder since the inaugural Union season so I’ll always suggest a Union match! The River End has a fun atmosphere to watch a match even a non-soccer fan would enjoy.
Philadelphia is home to the comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and countless films have been set there, most recently Silver Linings Playbook. What film or television series do you think best depicts the city and why?
I think most of them depict Philadelphia fairly well. I’d say Rocky is the best representation of the city though. The images of Delaware Ave, the Italian Market, the art museum still hold up accurately today. I don’t live far from where Rocky’s street was filmed under the El. Along with the imagery, the story is very Philadelphian. In most people’s eyes we are an underdog.