Victoria Meng: 24 Hours in Philadelphia

Photography, Text and Video by Victoria Meng, Copyright 2017


24 Hours in Philadelphia


The glare of passing cars on a wet boulevard glows, ironically, orange. I’m standing beneath the looming shadow of City Hall. To my right, a group of screaming protesters seems more comforting than the sight to my left, a row of fifteen armed police officers, leaning on their thin bike frames like stoic knights preparing to joust. It’s a cold Saturday night, shortly past midnight. Shouts muddled with static erupted from bullhorns, filling the air with complaints about small hands and big grievances. Yet, in the chaos around me, I found a source of peace.

Weaving between the ANTIFA activists and reporters and policemen, there were people. Normal Philadelphia citizens going about their nightly activities without batting an eye. Colorful beanies bobbed their way up and down the stairs of the SEPTA station, cars stuck in traffic blasted the newest single from this week’s one-hit wonder, Philly Jesus smiled silently from his post.
I went Downtown to look for signs of decay, clear beacons of injustice and hatred that have sprouted up over the past year. But I didn’t find that. Instead, I finally saw in Philly, something that I’d always wanted to see: resilience. Despite all of the tragedies and embarrassments that have befallen us as a society in the past year, Philly is still Philly. The city is no less vibrant, and the people are no less brash, diverse, creative, or phenomenal.

The next morning, as I walked through Chinatown and then to a Day of the Dead Celebration, I witnessed a new type of protest. Among these vibrant immigrant communities, there was no screaming, no posters, no Papier-mâché presidents. Instead, they fought back by simply living and loving in a city they made their home. Their very existence was a raised a middle finger to the nationalist forces that rally against them.

Old women guarded their posts in Chinatown, chattering together in brightly patterned jackets, while young children 20 blocks down got their faces painted to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Whether it was the smell of warm Pan de Muerto or the faint thump of some Taiwanese rap single, I witnessed how joy can be a form of defiance.



About The Author: Victoria Meng is a Sophomore enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Victoria Meng, click:


Jesse Halpern: Walled In




Photography, Text and Video by Jesse Halpern, Copyright 2017




Since the early 70’s presidents have been preaching about a war on crime. From Nixon through Bush, the victor in the election was the law and order candidate. This war being waged has had no effect on the violent crime rate in America yet our incarceration rates now towers above all other countries. Americans make up 5% of the people on earth, yet the United States houses 25% of the planet prisoners.

The transformation to the system we have today is really rooted in the complex I have photographed, Eastern State Penitentiary. It transformed punishment for crimes. We move away from corporal punishment, to a serving hard time. This was the model of the American Prison, a cruel system. If you were sent to Eastern State the only thing you ever saw was your cell, lit but a thin ceiling slit, and a small exercise quarter.

Racism in the courts and policing was rampant right from the start due to a clause in the 13th amendment which gave slaves freedom except if they were imprisoned.

Race was at the center of the push for the war on crime in the 70’s in retaliation to the Civil Rights Movement. The war on drugs in particular the war on Crack Cocaine was a war on African Americans. A sentence for 1 gram of Crack was the same as the sentence for 100 grams of cocaine.

Economics continues to be at the forefront in prison policy making with a boom in the private prison industry as well as contracts for public prisons being extremely lucrative. Corporations with these contracts and the corporations that own the correctional facilities benefit from incarceration, and lobby strongly to get laws enacted on their behalf.

With Obama we saw what looked like the end to the rhetoric of being tough on crime, and to the long line of Law and Order Presidents. Presidents who enacted due mandatory minimum sentences, sextupled the budget for the DEA, and militarized our police. But in the most recent election, Hilary Clinton, running as the candidate for criminal justice reform, and to end mandatory minimum loose to Trump, a self-proclaimed Law and Order candidate.

Over 5.8 million Americans cannot vote because they have been convicted of felonies. Over 2 million Americans are currently in Jail. The system, these jail structures, do little to curb the rate of violent crimes in America.

Reforms need to be made to this broken system. The Percentage of Americans incarcerated for violent crimes in 1970 is essentially what it is today, but the percentage of Americans behind bars for nonviolent crimes has increased by about 600%.

The dilapidated walls and cells of Eastern State represent the broken state of the American Prison Industrial complex.

The series was photographed in three segments. First, in direct light in the outdoor part of the complex. Second, with indirect natural light for the interior of the building. Third, with fill flash for the cells. Heavy noise was introduced in editing to give the whole series an archival feeling, an aged feeling. I wanted to capture something sturdy yet slowly unraveling which is what I believe to be the current state of the prison industrial complex. The final image is a reflection of the first photo of the prison walls. It is meant to inspire reflection about the cruelty of our criminal justice system, and of the architectural structures that house the largest population of incarcerated people in the world.



About The Author: Jesse Halpern is a Sophomore enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Jesse Halpern, click here



Yash Killa: Propaganda


Photography and Text by Yash Killa, Copyright 2017




When I was given this topic as my assignment, I knew I could go two ways about it – either go for a direct representation of propaganda by covering a protest or find some other day-to-day activity around us and transcend it into a metaphor for the idea behind propaganda.The latter is what I chose to go for. This allowed me to perceive a certain aspect of our society in a very different and unique way, and further challenged me to convince all who view the project.

Propaganda aims to change and influence people’s views, and is often misleading and biased. It is often seen directly in the form of protests or posters. It can be of political, religious, social or economic in nature, but in the crux of it, it is based on changing people’s perspectives and ideas by using certain tools like social media to spread information.

Something similar is what I see in a barbershop. People getting their hair ‘altered’ by the barbers through tools like scissors and trimmers, can be compared to people getting their views ‘altered’ by the propagandists through tools like social media and protests.

And so, for this project, I focused on taking photos that can help the viewer draw this parallel – from the picture of the trimmers, to the picture of the broom and the cut-off hair. The trimmers being the tool of the influencing, whereas the cut-off hair symbolises the fresh and unique ideas that have been tactfully removed through the process, with the broom cleaning everything at the end.

Furthermore, the final nod given by the customer using the mirrors around him portrays the susceptibility of the common man to social media and other people’s opinions, and how it is they, themselves who allow propagandists to bring an impact to their lives.

Finally, I hope the series of photographs makes this metaphor easier to comprehend and I, maybe encourage people to think more about what happens around them.


About The Author: Yash Killa is a Freshman enrolled in the School of Arts & Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020.


Sharon Song: Honeyed Lips


Photography and Text by Sharon Song, Copyright 2017




When searching for inspiration for this project, I scoured the Internet for images that represented “erotica”. However, I was left feeling that many of the images were not tastefully executed, and that my search history was in need of a good cleanse. I found that mainstream media often takes explicit routes in depicting erotic imagery. Being new to erotic photography, I wanted to start with a concept and style that I was more familiar with. Therefore, I took a more subtle approach to the project.

I began by thinking about sensuality and raw experiences. This immediately led me to think about the lips and mouth, and how it can all begin with a simple smile, curious lip bite, or gentle kiss. All these amorous sensations are, metaphorically, sweet. They sweeten human experiences. With these thoughts in mind, I came up the juxtaposition of sugar and lips. Sugar is often thought of as something that is irresistible and euphoric. In a similar sense, sensual experiences are alluring and enthralling.

In this series of photographs, there are a number of lips of different shapes and sizes. However, they are alike in that they are covered in lip-gloss, lipstick, and something sweet. It aims to provoke the mind to think about the similarities between saccharine taste and the erotic nature of the lips.



About The Author: Sharon Song is a Senior enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018. To access additional articles by Sharon Song, click here