TWO YEARS ago, when photographer Tieshka Smith started to document the changes taking place in Germantown, there was no place for her to exhibit her work. Then last year, a community gallery opened on Greene Street, which is where her show, "The Other Germantown," will be on display until Aug. 3.
"When it opened, it was like the local community converged on it like an oasis in the desert," she said of the Imperfect Gallery. The first show was so crowded people could barely get in the door, she recalled. "It was like all the artists came out of their cubbyholes."
The Imperfect Gallery, on Greene near Chelten Avenue, was founded last year by husband-and-wife Renny Molenaar and Rocio Cabello. The space was meant to help give the community a voice and a place to engage with one another.
A large number of theater performers, dancers and circus artists live in the area, but they go elsewhere to perform because of the lack of venues, said Molenaar. As for those who visit the exhibits, they are diverse in age, race, religion and economic status, he said.
Smith has several ongoing projects underway, including documenting the last days of the 23 schools that closed in Philadelphia, and a project about anti-hunger efforts. Her exhibit, "The Other Germantown," began when she wanted to better understand the neighborhood where her partner lived.
"What's in the character of this neighborhood that compels people to stay and grow roots here?" she asked.
Many of her subjects are children - some happily blowing bubbles or riding bikes, others staring sternly into the camera.
"Kids are important people in this community," she said. "Those children are the life of the community."
Smith now lives in Germantown, and has since become a part of the neighborhood she has so closely documented. People whom she has photographed will notice her out and about before she notices them.
"They'll say, 'Tiesh, where's your camera?' " she said.