Photography and Artist Statement by Grant Wei, Copyright 2018
I have always found the concept of being from Philadelphia to be interesting.
Because, in actuality, I grew up in the suburbs. I don’t know Philadelphia as well as I probably should, given the fact that I spent virtually my entire existence within the confines of the Schuylkill River. And since I have left the suburbs for college in the city, what I have glorified to be a real Philadelphian experience, I still wonder my experiences genuinely constitute a person living in Philadelphia.
Because, since coming to Penn, I have only come to understand how out of touch I am with the living conditions of those who inhabit the same city as me. It’s not that I am exposed to more individuals whose income brackets don’t fall into the top one percent of income — Penn has gentrified the surrounding area with disturbing efficiency — it’s just that my education has made me more discontent with not understanding the world around me.
All the same, I question whether there even exists a conception of Philadelphia. After all, we all have our own individual experiences regarding living in Philadelphia. My experience transitioning from the suburbs to the city is different than that someone who has lived in Fishtown all their lives, which is different someone who has lived around Rittenhouse Square all their lives, and so on. And that doesn’t mean that any of our experiences are less authentic.
I think, out of all the valuable lessons I have learned in college, that the most important aspect of developing an understanding of the world is to develop a sense of empathy for others. I may never understand the realities of living in one of the poorer areas of Philadelphia, but I can try without letting my presumptions get ahead of me. Because, in the end, I never thought of knowledge as journey with an end; because, the moment I stop questioning myself is the moment I stop learning.
But, despite the differences in experience (and my futile attempts of writing without othering people), there are many aspects of life that we all share. Particularly, when we all finish work or school or whatever, we would look into the same napalm sky to see the same orange hue permeating every corning of our sight. It’s a sign that one day is done, and despite whatever hardships we might encounter, that we could redeem ourselves in the next day, and the next, and the next.
About The Author: Grant Wei is a Sophomore enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Grant Wei, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/grant-wei-blinking-through-memories/