In Plain Sight: Public Art in Philadelphia

In Plain Sight: Public Art in Philadelphia

by Ed Hille


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Philadelphia has thousands of public artworks—more than any other city in America. Ed Hille has 40 years of experience as an award-winning photographer. In Plain Sight brings the two together—the dedicated artist and a spectacular subject.

Throughout the city—in business districts, industrial zones, residential neighborhoods—eye-catching sculptures and murals form a backdrop to Philadelphians' everyday pursuits. In the words of the Association for Public Art, the city offers "art for everyone, anytime," and people experience it in a multitude of ways. To reflect this integration of art and life, Ed Hille's photographs capture the artworks not as isolated pieces, but in the midst of human interaction. "Life," he writes, "simply moves around them."

For 18 months, Hille journeyed around the city, day and night, shooting and reshooting to gather his striking images. In these pages he presents the collection simply, with small captions, allowing the photographs to speak for themselves. Then, at the back of the book, he offers a description of each artwork and details about the photography.

Those who know Philadelphia will appreciate seeing favorite landmarks in a new light. For those unfamiliar with the city, the book offers a glimpse of a place where "the extraordinary has become an ordinary part of life."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781680980387
Publisher: Camino Books, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/12/2020
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 110,448
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 12.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

In more than four decades as a photojournalist, Ed Hille crisscrossed America and the globe, capturing images on five continents. His major assignments included political conventions, the World Series, the Grand Prix in Monaco, the Kentucky Derby and the Winter Olympics. He documented political and social instability in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Sudan and Liberia, the struggle for independence in Namibia, the first free elections in Haiti, and the lifting of the iron curtain in Romania. He has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has received accolades from numerous local, state, national and international organizations.

As a staff photographer at The Philadelphia Inquirer, he had a front-row seat for life in the city. And as he traveled about, he developed a strong appreciation for the city's vast collection of public art. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, this book became a priority for him—to help people see new angles of the city and appreciate the art that surrounds them.

Read an Excerpt


What is public art and why is it important?

To me, the answer can be found in a little four-word phrase used as a slogan by Philadelphia's Association for Public Art: "art for everyone, anytime."

Philadelphia is thought to have the oldest and largest collection of public art in the country. Some of the works, such as Claes Oldenburg's Clothespin and Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture, are in prominent locations and have become tourist destinations, much like the Liberty Bell or the Rocky statue. Other works of art define particular neighborhoods, parks and personalities. Most are permanent installations, though some are meant to be temporary.

As a staff photographer at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 33 years, I was privileged to have a front-row seat to life in the city. And as I traveled about, I developed a strong appreciation for public art. It is everywhere! Did you know that there are over 3,000 murals spread throughout Philly?

It's an extraordinary number, but here, the extraordinary has become an ordinary part of life. These treasured works of art are so neatly woven into the fabric of the city, and have become so commonplace, that life simply moves around them. The art forms a backdrop to everyday activities. Some of these works are beautiful, some are powerful, and some serve as monuments to great figures, while still others were created to stir our imagination and curiosity.

I began photographing Philadelphia's public art, and the relationship people have with it, as a way to fight back against Parkinson's disease. I was diagnosed in the fall of 2016 and retired from the Inquirer about a year later. By that time I had spent my whole career working in photography, and to this day, it continues to be my lifeline and escape mechanism.

As the project progressed, I adopted a Muhammad Ali quote as my mantra: "Don't count the days, make the days count."

Each photograph in this book represents a moment in time when I was able to fulfill my purpose of helping people appreciate and see new angles of the city and the art that surrounds them.

This book is not just about the art on display, but also about the many ways in which we experience the art. It's a testament to Philadelphia, a city that has committed significant resources to creating and preserving public art.

It's my honor to donate the proceeds of this book to the cause of Parkinson's research. I hope that advances in understanding the disease will empower others to keep doing the work that matters to them. There is no cure for Parkinson's, and we must do all we can to find one.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Brian Tierney ix
Introduction xi
The Photographs 1
About the Artwork and Photographs 95
Notes 113
Acknowledgments 115
About the Photographer 117

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