Exploring 'The Cultural Fabric of Philadelphia' through photos
In a new book, officially released on Sept. 20 with a reception at City Hall as part of celebrating immigrant heritage during Welcoming Week, photographer Dave Lakatos highlights immigrant communities throughout the city.
Local photographer Dave Lakatos hopes to present a new vision of the city with his photo book, “The Cultural Fabric of Philadelphia,” a celebration of six of the city’s immigrant communities through moments of people’s everyday lives, religious ceremonies, cultural celebrations and traditions, and more.
In what Lakatos describes as an “emotional, intimate” style, the book highlights the Chinese, Dominican, Indonesian, German, Liberian, and Vietnamese communities. Its purpose, said Lakatos, who was raised in a Polish-American community in Reading, PA, and whose family immigrated from Poland several generations bakck, is to show the rich cultural heritage and personal stories of these immigrant communities, as well as to encourage Philadelphians of all backgrounds to learn more.
“I would like to allow people to expand that field of vision that they have just a little bit,” said Lakatos, explaining what he aims to accomplish with the book. “Be open. Expand...learn a little bit more about some of these other cultures."
The book started at first as a project for the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians in 2015, but the project transformed in purpose and Lakatos ended up opening a nonprofit organization, Lifework, to fund its production after shooting images for it for over two years.
Lakatos began talking to members of the communities, attending events, and shooting photos after Peter Gonzales, CEO of the Welcoming Center, gave him the names of various people in each community that Lakatos could reach out to who would be able to work with him.
But when he realized that it was going to be a much longer and complicated project than he originally expected, Lakatos decided to keep going with it at first because the subject matter fit well with his style as a photographer.
And then the Trump campaign happened. Lakatos said he was affected by the hate spewed at immigrant communities, and the sense of disconnect between the reality he was seeing and experiencing through getting to know individuals in the communities.
“I believe that longterm that whole chapter of our history is going to be shown to be just wrong,” Lakatos said. “I felt that this was something that could be my little bit of contribution to that narrative.”
The photographer said that for him, personally, the project has been an incredible learning experience, noting that the personal stories and the struggles and sacrifices of those he met in each community are what moved him the most.
“You kind of have to go through a door until you get on the inside, and it’s more like the door of yourself,” said Lakatos.
“When I would go to some of these communities, my door would still be closed and I’m just communicating and conversing and when I get in, I start working and I open up so that I’m receptive,” he continued. “I think that’s the problem. That people aren’t opening themselves enough to receive this stuff. If you go out into these communities and you open your door, and allow this to come in, then it will come and you’ll interact with it and you’ll start to see the positive things and just the interesting things.”
Lakatos has currently begun working on the second book in what he hopes will be an annual series. This time, he will focus on the Haitian, Indian, Jamaican, Mexican, and Ukrainian communities in Philadelphia.
Photos from the book are currently on display at the gallery exhibition at City Hall, Room 116.