Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Lenni, Pennsylvania, 1974 (I)
In the summer of 1974 I'd been working as a free-lance photographer for a couple of years, with clients around Philadelphia, PA, and Wilmington, DE. I drove through the tiny village of Lenni on my way home from an assignment at a nuclear power plant, for the Philadelphia Electric Company's annual report. The town, even back then, seemed locked in a previous era. It was only about 15 miles outside of Philly, surrounded by rapidly expanding suburban sprawl. But it sat on the side of a steep hill, near noisy railroad tracks. All the houses, and the few businesses, were old construction. The place fascinated me, and all summer I spent any time not on assignment hanging around the small town with a couple of cameras. This slow immersion let people get used to seeing me and the cameras. Eventually I became more or less invisible to them.
I noticed that most of the time, the kids played outside in the street, on the porch, or in the woods at the top of the hill. This contrasted to what I'd seen in the New York and Philadelphia suburbs. The term "soccer Mom" wouldn't be coined until years later, but organized, programmed, childhood was already becoming the suburban norm. I remember thinking these kids were lucky to avoid that. Lenni was a neighborhood. That was one of the things I wanted to document about the place.