This feature was originally published in September 2013. 

Today we bring you some stories of library incubation from Philadelphia photographer Tieshka Smith. In these examples from Tieshka, many of her creative projects would not have been possible – or as interesting, anyway – without the library. ~ Laura

Tieshka's show invitation, featuring Queen Akila.

Tieshka’s show invitation, featuring Queen Akilah.

by Tieshka Smith

Over the course of documenting Germantown (and Philadelphia) life over the past 2 1/2 years, I have posted up at my local library (Coleman Regional Library in Germantown) to connect with potential subjects. One of my subjects, Queen Akilah, was in the library when I approached her to be photographed.  One of the images I shot of her became the “face” of “The Other Germantown” solo exhibition at iMPeRFeCT Gallery, which recently closed August 3rd.  In addition to sparking an amazing amount of community engagement, the show got a tremendous amount of favorable press.

Last summer when my computer crashed, I used Coleman’s computer lab to research and write the proposal that resulted in me being awarded my first commission, entitled “Portraits of Brewerytown.”  The commission culminated in my first solo effort of the same name that was exhibited at Next City earlier this year.  Also, the project was featured in a TEDx video entitled Reimagining The Commons (check out the video below). For the press release from Next City, the project sponsor, go hereGo here for the images in and captions for the photo series.  Metro Philadelphia and CBS Philly covered the exhibit.

Naturally, we had to ask Tieshka a couple of questions to dig into her relationship with libraries. See them below.

From your perspective as an artist, what would your ideal library look or be like? 

It would be aesthetically inviting, comfortable and easy to navigate.

What would it have in it? 

In addition to being well stocked with books, magazines and other print and electronic reading materials, there would be a wealth of multimedia resources for artists who work in a variety of mediums, and there would be people on staff who could speak the language of artists.  Like, I would love to be able to make digital prints of my work at the library.  That would be incredible, and convenient.

And, again as a photographer who has used libraries to promote your work or recruit subjects for your work, what advice do you have for other creatives looking to effectively use their neighborhood library to a similar end?

Walk in, introduce yourself, and learn about the resources that are available.

Tieshka (pronounced Tish-Ka) Smith is a Philadelphia-based photographer. A Chicago native, Smith is a graduate of Northwestern University and Keller Graduate School of Management.  Her body of work incorporates still photography in the social documentary and visual storytelling tradition of Gordon Parks, Vivian Maier, Henri Cartier Bresson, Jamel Shabazz and others. It is her goal to contribute a compelling visual narrative to ongoing community conversations and subsequent collective action around a range of socioeconomic issues that impact urban communities and the people who live in them.

Pin It