Jaime Alvarez & Sheldon Omar Abba
Commonweal is excited to feature the photographs of Jaime Alvarez and Sheldon Omar Abba. Alvarez and Abba have been methodically documenting how the landscapes and communities of Fishtown and Kensington have altered over the past several years, while hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to redevelop these neighborhoods in an attempt to redefine the city’s residential appeal and attract growth. Both artists’ bodies of work question whether it is possible to capture a city in the act of transformation.
This is a critical moment to explore Alvarez & Abba's long-form approach to documentary photography as, on January 1st of this year, the phasing out of the 10-year property tax abatement began. Reflecting upon how this seemingly dull and bureaucratic piece of tax policy has deeply impacted the landscape and psyche of our city, is what brought Commonweal to feature the testamental approach of these two remarkable artists.
Alvarez (b. 1979) is an artist who uses photography, video, and installation in his work to question how people relate to objects, and the landscape around them. Through his work, he seeks to personify the object with intent and purpose through a careful mediation of the object through perspective, scale, and content, often commenting on contemporary materialism and visual culture. Alvarez is originally from Puerto Rico, and currently resides in Philadelphia. His work has been seen throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada and has been collected by Comcast, The Mexic-Arte Museum, Drexel University, and is in numerous prominent private collections.
Abba (b. 1985) is the proud son of immigrants and is a brown man in America. His work straddles the line between practicing artist and creative facilitator. His projects are often collaborations between artists, institutions and communities focused on documentation, and collective storytelling. He currently uses film photography as an access point for relationship building and discussions around topics of identity, race, and social justice.