Kensington Blues Documents the Hardships in One of Philly's Roughest Neighborhoods

By Jenine Pilla
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted Dec. 12, 2012

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When he’s not running his fine-art inkjet printing business in the Vox Building on Wood Street, Jeffrey Stockbridge spends most of his free time beneath the El along Kensington Avenue, or, as it’s more commonly referred to, “the Ave.” The 30-year-old isn’t a part of the drug trade, which is what most Philly residents think of when Kensington comes up in conversation. He’s just there to take pictures and ask questions. A lot of them. He organizes his material and ideas on his blog, Kensington Blues, a documentary project that formed in 2008 to spotlight “how people survive along the Avenue, how they survive the drug use, and how they survive themselves.”


Stockbridge, a professional photographer and 2005 Drexel grad, started Kensington Blues as a citywide project, but quickly realized where his attention needed to be. “I was taking photographs around Philadelphia of the interiors of abandoned houses and the people I would meet,” he says. “I met a woman who was selling sex for drugs in an abandoned house, and she told me about Kensington, the avenue specifically, where there were large numbers of women who were doing the same thing.” And so he took to the streets of the neighborhood. Soon, Kensington Blues became a powerful collection of photographs, journal entries and Q&As with the people who find cold comfort in these nooks under the El. Through first-person storytelling, Stockbridge attempts to show the lives of many Philadelphians only a few train stops away. He says the blog should serve as a portal for “encouraging compassion for one another despite the vast differences between us.” 


And they are vast. But it’s clear that those living beneath the El have created a community of their own—one that’s surrounded by hard drug use, violence and prostitution, but a community nonetheless. “One person I photographed said it doesn’t matter how fucked up I am, if I walk down the avenue I know I’ll see somebody who is more fucked up than me,” Stockbridge says. “There’s an odd sort of companionship that comes along with that ideology, but it’s there … it’s a family in a way.”


Matt, a homeless drug abuser, first took the El to Kensington 10 years ago. He has never left. Like many people who live along the Ave, Matt opens up to Stockbridge about his hardships. (Stockbridge says most people want to share their stories after they hear about his project.) “Under the train tracks, the shit that goes on in the woods, the shit that goes on while this train is driving by above our heads, the things that go on these streets at night when the lights go off, are the kind of things that ... people can only dream about.” 


Then there’s Janette, who tells Stockbridge about her troubles through a hand-written journal entry. “He asked me to smoke crack with him then wigged out,” she writes in purple marker, “and handcuffed me to his steering wheel, pistol whipped me, and knocked out my front teeth and cracked my head open—26 stitches.” 


Stockbridge says his ultimate goal with Kensington Blues is not yet determined. This past summer, he worked with a documentary filmmaker on a short that will be released in near future. Many of his photographs have appeared in galleries worldwide, and his work is set to appear in an upcoming group show at Bucks County Community College. But until then, he’s content to spend his time along the Ave. “It keeps calling me back, I can’t leave. I’m constantly intrigued by the neighborhood, I just can’t quit it.”

See more of Jeffrey Stockbridge’s work
 on kensingtonblues.com.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 18 of 18
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1. Angie said... on Dec 14, 2012 at 12:14AM

“COOKYJAR
I think it's important that another denizen of Kensington Avenue be exposed, shamed in the press, and turned over to the police. His name is CookyJar.

This overweight 65 year-old ex-Marine has been prowling for young girls under the El for seven years, using our taxpayer pension money to pay for them to disrobe, pose for scores of obscene photos, and then have dirty sex. CookyJar does not tell them that he then posts their pictures on the internet. Aside from making them pose in denigrating positions, he has ruined their life by revealing their identity online and making a permanent record for their children to see someday. The poor girls, mostly drug-addicted and desperate for money, have no choice but to accept his (our) money. Don't believe me? You can see him drool over his victims at usasexguide.info.

It's time for investigative reporters from this paper and the Inquirer to publicize this man CookyJar, his perverted life, and his utter disregard for the values of the Marine Corps, the self-esteem of his victims and the safety of our community.”

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2. CookyJar said... on Dec 17, 2012 at 10:53PM

“F*ck you, Angie.”

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3. Ray said... on Dec 18, 2012 at 04:12AM

“Angie: As long as PW accepts advertising money from sex traffickers, and yes PW, Asian Massage Parlors are traffickers. Do you really think this paper is going to investigate the pervert you mentioned? I'll bet PW would call it harmless fun between consenting adults, just as it does for the AMP's.

http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/sex-trafficking-in-the-us/massage-parlors.

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4. Angie said... on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:54AM

“Re: COOKYJAR
Is it "harmless fun" to have 30 photos of your naked body splashed across a web page where future employers or children can view them?
Is it "harmless fun" to take advantage of a young girl's addiction by dangling our taxpayer-paid U.S. Marine pension money in front of their nose?
Is it "harmless fun" to command underage girls to bend over in a disgusting pose and then lie about who will be viewing the pornography?

PW, not to mention the Philadelphia Police, have a moral and legal right to expose perverts like CookyJar. Think about your daughter or sister being lured into this "harmless fun".”

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5. Jackson said... on Dec 18, 2012 at 02:28PM

“The aforementioned website is located in Canada and its officers are not liable or required to reveal confidential information. If the identity of "CookyJar" or anyone else using the website is otherwise discovered, he or she can be fully prosecuted under US criminal statutes.”

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6. Light Phoenix said... on Jan 21, 2013 at 11:55AM

“Angie, if addicts don't give you their specific and knowing consent to have their pics posted on the internet, it's wrong to do so. Legally these girls are people with the same right to privacy as you or me. If some person like this CookyJar, gets their permission for photos with the false representation that they are for personal use, it's a fraud and an invasion of privacy.

This weirdo was bound to get someone like you to file a police report sooner or later, given the number of pics he apparently posts.

If one prostitute who was formerly unknown to the police has been outed by someone posting her pic, it's one too many. They indulge these fat, old, bald, lawbreaking men in their desire to selfishly use and toss them aside, for drug money. Might this CookyJar not be overstepping moral boundaries, as well as the legal ones, if he causes the girls continuing harm after tossing them away?”

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7. Anonymous said... on Jan 21, 2013 at 09:10PM

“AMPS is sex between consenting adults. PW tolerates that. CookyJar's girls consent to photos but NOT to posting photos of their tits ass and face on the internet without their consent. He is also guilty on hundreds of counts of soliciting for prostitution.”

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8. eigna said... on Jan 25, 2013 at 12:10AM

“cookyjar is my hero. He is actually keeping new johns off the street with the photos of the girls. Particularly the naked pictures. Have you seen the girls any of them, if you had I don't think you will want to get near them with a 10 foot pole. Cookyjar has kept me away from the ave. He reminds me with every picture post that these girls are in need of help. And by me not visiting them I am helping them. Now that I saved some money with Cookjar's help, I will use it more wisely and go to an AMP. I gotta support my needs somehow, why not help those in need.”

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9. Angie said... on Jun 12, 2013 at 08:28PM

“Good one CookyJar, you learned how to spell Angie backwards and use it for the name in your comment. You are so pathetic that you come here to praise yourself as your "hero", imply that your "fans" masturbate on your pictures, and then go on abusing girls on Kensington Avenue. Very disturbing and very motivating for me to make sure the police are there if I ever spot you when you are picking up underage girls for nude photos.”

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10. Anonymous 22 said... on Jul 24, 2013 at 02:23AM

“I was one of them "poor girls" selling my ass on the ave to get myself and my hubby high. I was never forced into the situation; I chose it. I hate when people say "poor me." If it wasn't for my life threatening health issues I would probably still be on the ave. I know how crazy this sounds, but I really do miss the life style and the undescribable feeling of heroin traveling through my veins. But back to my main reason for writing this; I was "picked up" by cookie jar. As soon as I got into his car, he was upfront about everything. I knew that my nude pics were going on that website, and to tell you the truth, I didn't care. Hundreds of guys have already see me naked, I lost my modesty long before I met cookie jar. Not only was he upfront with me, and every other girl I talked to, he treated me extremely well. He was respectful of me and my boundaries, he took care of me, he was easy to talk to, and was a very genuine guy. I looked forward to being with him, because I trusted him.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Jul 29, 2013 at 12:28PM

“I wrote that last comment while sitting in the hospital room once again. I created my own pain, problems, and caused my loved ones to suffer. Most likely, I will never be "physically normal" again because I used my addiction to run away from my life. It's easier for me to sleep on a sidewalk and shoot up, then for me to live my life. I always believed, and still kind of do, that I'd rather have some pleasure from drugs, than live miserable. Ironically enough, my addiction caused my leg to need serious rehabilitation. So, I can no longer run from life. Depending on what day you talk to me, I'm either extremely grateful for this or I feel cursed. I came across this site looking for something. I truly miss Kensington; I may not originally have been from there but it has become apart of me, a big part. I was shocked to see the comments about cookie jar and I wanted to share my experience with him. Every day, all day/night long I would jump in and out of cars. Sometimes I knew the guy and”

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12. Anonymous again said... on Jul 29, 2013 at 12:45PM

“Sometimes I didn't, but I guess every guy was new to me at one point. Thinking back on it, it's terrifying getting into a car with a man that you don't know. He can be nice, generous, cheap, or dangerous. Every time I got in a car I knew that there was a chance I would be raped, beat up, stalked, robbed, strangled, or left for dead. Trust me; it happens a lot more than you'd like to think. It's a lot worse than a business transaction gone wrong. The first time I met cookie jar he was straightforward with me, and I turned him down. He politely went on his way. The second time, it was a slow day and I talked to another girl about him and she recommended him, so I went with him. I'm glad I did. He was very nice and generous and most importantly I felt safe. It was a slow day so I was desperate, and whenever I was desperate I usually got hurt. I'm not sure who just would've ended up meeting if I wasn't with cookie jar. But for someone in my position, he was an angel. He helped me so I didn't”

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13. Anonymous again said... on Jul 29, 2013 at 12:55PM

“Need to go and work more that day. He always treated me with respect, and I considered him a friend, and I still do. If any girl would ever ask my opinion about him, I honestly couldn't say one bad thing. It killed me to read the other comments, because that's not the person I know. I was never tricked, deceived, or lied to. I knew what I was getting into, and plenty of other girls will tell you the same. I am willing to own up to what I did during my addiction. I have no reason to lie or to even write this. I haven't been in Kensington or had contact with any one for a year. It just bothered me to see lies written about a truly good person.”

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14. Clitlicker said... on Feb 7, 2014 at 05:23PM

“I used to support this "CookyJar" person in his internet thread until I talked to one of his clients. She said he made her bend over for a nude shot and tried to "jerk off" when she did. He's real old and so he couldn't. All rather disgusting. Anyway he eventually posted the photos of her online. She said he used the line "they're for my personal use". C'mon, anonymous poster above, isn't that deception? These girls have enough to contend with without CookyJar's kind of perverted BS.”

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15. Anonymous said... on May 8, 2014 at 09:41PM

“by these comments..there's only consensual nudie pic's being taken and later regret and anger at the public posting. Willing to get naked and pose in hyper-sexual positions for a random guy off the street presumably for some monetary fee. Anyone with any sense would know at some level pictures such like these will be shared with few or many...how on earth would one presume otherwise?”

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16. Richie Antipuna said... on Jul 16, 2014 at 08:39AM

“I would like the opportunity to interview Cookyjar on the Kenzo Newz. If that's something he would be up to, I left my email for him to contact me. Thank you.
www.youtube.com/richie31372”

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17. Anonymous said... on Oct 8, 2014 at 07:43PM

“That's thoughtful,of you Richie. Despite his boasts about being some kind of a "marine", I'm afraid CookyJar is your run-of-the-mill coward and would be scared to reveal his motives, his inadequate communication skills, and his shame. Too bad. It would benefit the neighborhood and law-abiding readers of this publication to get insight into what causes him to keep pursuing his perverted lifestyle.”

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18. Jeffrey Dowling said... on Dec 16, 2014 at 02:36AM


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