An Instagram Takeover and Q&A with @StreetsDept

Photo: Dave Garrett Sarrafian

MEET CONRAD BENNER, PHILLY’S @STREETSDEPT

Since launching his blog almost four years ago, Conrad Benner has been behind the lens of his iPhone capturing urban landscapes in Philadelphia. Born and raised in Fishtown, he had no idea that fast-forwarding to the present day would have him selling his work and being #instafamous with almost 100,000 followers as @StreetsDept—all in the city he grew up in.

SHARING STREETSDEPT WITH UBER PHILLY

InstagramFrom March 20 – March 26, Conrad will be taking over the @Uber_Philly Instagram to showcase the city from the perspective of @StreetsDept. Where you haven’t Ubered to before, Conrad will, and we’re #superpumped to see what he has to share with the Uber community. Follow @Uber_Philly and hashtag search #UberStreets.

Q&A: GETTING TO KNOW CONRAD

We invited Conrad to our HQ in Philadelphia to explore his rapid growth and Philly-living in his late twenties.

Who is Streets Dept?

StreetsDept is Conrad Benner. I’m a Philly born and raised photographer— in Fishtown, actually. I’m a lover of street art and graffiti and urban exploration, and just Philly in general. I’m really excited about the city and sort of where it is going and where it has been. So yeah, a very excited person for this city.

So you’ve been a Philadelphian forever?

Quote 1Yeah, so I’m 29 and I’ve been here my whole life. I’ve traveled a bunch, not too much, but within the US. A lot of people that grew up in Philly have that idea, “Oh maybe I’ll move off to New York one day,” after college or something like that. But for me it was around that time where there was this sort of paradigm shift, and the reverse was happening. People were moving here
from New York and realizing that maybe the dream doesn’t live there anymore. It can happen anywhere now. In this digital age, you can create something using the tools at our advantage. For Philly, there’s so much going on here and so much space to grow and build.

What’s your typical day look like?

I have a 9-5 job. I work as the Social Media Director of Quaker City Mercantile. Monday through Friday, I’m waking up and going to work and going home. Most weeknights, I’m either writing emails or editing blog posts and photos. On nicer days in Spring and Summer I’ll walk home from work—most days, actually. I’ll try and walk a different way and take different photos. I heard a TED Talk a long time ago that said “Walk everywhere you go, and walk a different way everywhere you go.” It’ll keep your mind fresh and keep you on your toes, so I try and take that advice. I find a lot of graffiti that way, a lot of street art, and a lot of great shots of the city by walking different ways. On the weekends lately, its been a hodge podge of different meet-ups and networking events, photoshoots, and artists emailing me to photograph their installations. Or someone who just bought an abandoned building emailing me to come photograph it before they turn it into an apartment building. A lot of managing all of that. It’s exciting.

Are there any photos you have taken that have an interesting story behind them?

Divine LorraineThe Divine Lorraine and the abandoned subway stations are the two that stand out to me. That was one of the first abandoned spaces I have ever explored. Two street artists I know wanted to go up there to install some work knew a way in. It was very dark and very terrifying, and I had not been in too many abandoned spaces at that point. It was a rainy day and the stairwell was falling apart. The building was just ripped apart. Now, I know they’re turning it into something else, but in 2012 there were just huge portions of the floor that just… didn’t have a floor. It’s just about being very careful.

Then we got to the roof which was very slanted which I didn’t know, so you crawl over to one of the ledges where there is some flatness where you can stand and take photos. So that was terrifying and interesting. I feel like I’m going to look back on all of this one day and be like “What? Why did I do this?” I never initially prepared myself for these sorts of things, so I ended up wearing boat shoes on this slippery, slanted roof. If I slipped I would have died.

What inspires you?

Quote 2One of the reasons I love street art and graffiti so much is because I grew up in Philly, and Philly is relatively small size-wise. I’ve walked the same streets so many times my entire life. When there’s a little something new or something exciting, it stops you in your tracks, slaps you, and gives you the chance to engage with it. That’s what graffiti and street art did for me. That’s where it started, then I bought books in high school I was on every blog about it.

I’ve also always been interested in architecture, too. There was something about the lines. I went to Catholic school, and they always made you line up your books and everything had to be super-organized, and I love that about photography. It’s perfect, it’s organized, and it is all laid out so well. I never went to school for photography so I can’t put it into words, but you just sort of feel it.

Who are your favorite Philly Instagrammers right now?

Someone I’ve always loved who doesn’t get enough attention is @KyleHuff. He’s a Philly Instagrammer and his stuff is incredible. @RachelHara too, she just doesn’t get the credit she deserves. I like anyone who can show me Philly in a light that I haven’t seen before. They have such different photography styles and perspectives of Philly. They’re both also super-driven and always looking for new things to photograph. As someone who’s lived in Philly as long as I have, I’m excited when people find things I have never seen before, and they both do that. For anyone I’m following, I’m looking to see things in a new light.


To follow along with StreetDept’s Instagram takeover of Uber Philly, hashtag search #UberStreets or follow us on Instagram.

PHOTO CREDIT, Dave Garrett Sarrafian


 

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