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Capturing Philadelphia’s past in “City Abandoned”

City Abandoned building photography

Everyone here at 21xdesign is thrilled with the activity buzzing around one of our newest collaborations with Philadelphia publisher, Paul Dry Books. The book is called City Abandoned: Charting the Loss of Civic Institutions in Philadelphia, by photographer and author, Vincent Feldman.

The recent book signing and official launch of City Abandoned was a great success with a presentation by Vincent Feldman, along with Paul Dry at the Print Center in Philadelphia. To date this project has received several outstanding reviews, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal, who commended the book for its ability to help preserve architecture that would otherwise be lost in the City of Brotherly Love.

In City Abandoned, Feldman perfectly captures a portrait of Philadelphia that is remarkable and honest by photographing institutions that have been forgotten and neglected over time. He photographs Philadelphia as a city of history, not as defined in textbooks, but as one coming to terms with its past.

Looking at his abandoned building photography I find myself reminded of Rome; buildings that once represented prestige and power are now in ruin, filled with the ghosts of those who once believed in these same establishments. Vincent’s photographs are a perfect pairing of past and present, especially when you see graffiti sprayed facades on buildings from another era.

These ideas of history and a lost dignity influenced our approach to the book’s design. We chose the typefaces Didot and Scala to evoke an age when education, knowledge and civic pride were most valued in society. The images also clearly speak for themselves with each photograph demanding its own page, and a layout that allowed the work to breath on the page, uncluttered by any superficial ornamentation. Creating an in-depth appendix allows the reader to delve deeper into information on each photograph, with its accompanying history as well as its current status within the city.

As an educator, I am also delighted to be associated with this project in terms of its educational potential to make Philadelphians (and other cities too) aware of the plight of our buildings. In a quiet, but determined way, this book is a call to action, a wake-up call to the slow dissolution of our city’s sometimes majestic past. This project has been a labor of love for all involved, and the fruits of that labor, I think, are clear for all to see.

To see pages from this book click here.

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