Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In and Out of the Woods

Visiting the empty Tent City

In and Out of the Woods


I visited the former Camden Tent City residents at their hotel in Mt. Laurel last Friday after stopping by the woods. So after the weekend, I just had to see what was left of their compound after the planned cleanout.

Walking into the woods Monday morning, I was initially struck by how silent it was. Then I realized it wasn't all that unusual - many times in the past when I stopped in before about 9 a.m. it was quiet because everyone was still sleeping.

But then I heard rustling in the bushes. Not a camper, or homeless squatter, but some squirrels. A whole lot of them. As I walked around the deserted encampment, I saw them all over, scampering through the few remaining piles of old clothes and trash.

I don't know if they were never there before, or if I'd just never noticed because I was focused on the people.  I made a few frames trying to capture the emptiness and resolved that since the former residents are probably getting settled in at the facility in Bridgeton by now, and it's time I move along.  Although I'll probably check in every once in a while to see what county or state transportation officials do next - whether they fence it in or not.

Later in the afternoon Inquirer writer Matt Katz called me again. The residents never made it to Bridgeton. They spent the entire weekend at the hotel in Mt. Laurel, and were moving again. His story is here. They are now at a new hotel, on Route 70 in Cherry Hill, where I found the "mayor" Lorenzo "Jamaica" Banks outside the front door. They expect to be here all summer. Guess I'm not done after all.

Inquirer Staff Photographer
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About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at tgralish@phillynews.com.

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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