Field notes Assignment – PhillyCam Day1


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After I parked my car down the street I turned the corner on Ranstead street and saw PhillyCam in my direct sight on the corner. The busy street was filled with cars and trucks switching between lanes trying to get ahead before the red light flashed into their vision. The light stayed red as I walked the wholeblock to the PhillyCam entrance, those in the line at the red light looked at their phones and peered up time to time to check to see if the light had changed yet. A police car was stationed on the adjacent corner from PhillyCam. As I approached the corner where PhillyCam was I saw that there was no police officer in the vehicle, however it seemed to slow traffic goers down as they saw the vehicle ahead at the red light. There was a parking garage catty corner of PhillyCam where I realized I could have parked and saved myself the chance of not putting enough quarters in the meter. There were large windows at the left side of the building which were covered in posters. These posters read ” CREATE” “LISTEN” “PROTECT” in white lettering with a pinkish purple background. Above the posters on the window read “PEOPLE POWERED MEDIA” in the same pinkish purple color. The PhillyCam sign was displayed vertically at the corner of the building about 30 feet up in bright blue and yellow. As I stood at the entrance and look out to the left onto the street I could see what is known as historic Philadelphia close by.

Inside the main entrance old fashioned media images aligned the walls in black and white. The frames themselves were also black and modest, the images themselves drew enough attention. There were two larger doors that at first glance confused me as to which was the main entrance. I found that the main door was the one to the left which two small rectangular windows that you could use to slightly peer into the space. These doors were locked, an intercom and buzzer were positioned on the left side of the door to alert someone that you were at the door, the secretary then buzzed me in.

The information desk where the secretary sat was cluttered with various papers, a sign out sheet was toward the left amongst all the clutter. There were hundreds of city pamphlets activities at the entrance underneath a large flat screen tv. From what I saw the tv had flash ads and event reminders on replay throughout the day. The grand windows to the left lighted the room perfectly, there was no need that day for any other light source. The secretary sat down and got up twice before acknowledging my presence, she seemed to be all over the place. Behind the desk were various odd objects and signs that awoken a lot of questions as my first day at of PhillyCam had just begun.


As I got out of my car I began to feel a little jittery and nervous as cars whipped by me and I realized I would have to begin to engage with Laura who I had been emailing with for some time now. Meeting someone in person is always different then corresponding electronically and I was surprisingly nervous that she wouldn’t be like I expected. I had high hopes for the interview because she seemed very open to talk and outgoing through email, if there is such a thing. As I saw PhillyCam in sight I was surprised at how business like the building looked, large signs and a larger building in general that I had expected. I expected the building to be small and gritty and not so prominently positioned on the corner. People walked the streets and cars waited at the red light, the smell of gasoline and coffee intermingled together as it was 10 in the morning on a Thursday and I can imagine people needed an extra caffeine boost to make it to friday. On goers looked at me weirdly as I carried the camera bag, light kit and tripod on the sidewalk, along with the camera positioned around my neck. As I took pictures and jottings of the outside of the building to begin my visit,  someone stopped me to ask what the building was, another sign that PhillyCam is still very unknown to the public. As I took my first steps into the entrance after observing the outside commotion around the building I was immediately intrigued by the images on the walls and their content. Pictures of people in history producing video publications and broadcasts aligned the walls in black and white. I took about 10 mins taking pictures of these images and going from picture to picture to examine their content. The entrance did not have the street smell that loomed outside and instead smelled like Clorox. I pressed the small gray buzzer at the door, which looked worn down as I’m sure many hands have pressed the button awaiting entrance into the lobby. As I opened the door my eyes darted in all different directions, so much was going on, so many papers, so many objects, even the ceiling had handmade crafts hanging from the rafters. It wasn’t what I expected, it was much much more.


During my first outing at PhillyCam I realized how much PhillyCam was involved with and how much they were promoting for the future. I did not expect how busy the public media access organization would be. After my first outing I was still curious to find out about how many people are involved in the production side of things and how many community projects they currently had going on. I spoke with Lauren, head of the education department, and learned a lot in my first outing. Next I planned on seeing the various production and media rooms including where they produce their radio shows. I overall think I was very successful in my first outing, I spoke with four different people, two of which I looked in interviews with. I wish I would have been able to observe a class while in progress, on my first outing I mainly worked my way around the space and quietly observed the rooms themselves. Radio production was going on at the time and I was able to meet the a lady who worked in the radio department and listened to her give advice to a boy hoping to produce a show in the upcoming weeks. The readings that I mostly looked to during my outings are the Lynch readings and Emerson’s, Writing Ethnographic Field notes, both of these gave me guidelines and things to expect as I observed and spoke with those who worked at PhillyCam the first day.

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