Temple Magazine

BETSY MANNING

Story by Alix Gerz, SMC ´03, CLA ´07

DEGREE: BA, journalism, School of Media and Communication, 1987; MLA, College of Liberal Arts, 2008
OCCUPATION: Time traveler
LOCATION: Philadelphia


Whether she is balancing on a rooftop, swinging from a construction crane or wandering into an abandoned factory, Betsy Manning, SMC ´87, CLA ´08, will do whatever it takes to get the shot that perfectly captures the story of the buildings around her. She says there is no better city to document than Philadelphia, her hometown.

"People say it´s a city of neighborhoods, and that´s true," she notes. "Every place is different." In fact, her most recent exhibition, Uncommon Modern: Commercial Vernacular Architecture in Greater Philadelphia, 1937-1970, focused on the city´s mid-20th-century architecture. Held at the University of Pennsylvania this past fall and winter, the exhibit showcased buildings that are not well known, but which Manning finds important because of their "everyday" natures.

Sites such as Philadelphia´s Northeast Regional Library at Cottman Avenue and Oakland Street, the Broad Street Animal Hospital at Broad and Nedro streets, and the Philco factory at B and Tioga streets never fail to compel Manning to photograph them.

"The buildings are just ´there´ to most people—the structures you pass and ignore," says Manning, who also is Temple´s manager of photography and digital assets. "But they are all worth a long look. Each one has something someone thought would look good: some crazy shape—a round bank!—or some funky railing or a clock that seems to float off a wall. I just like that kind of thing."

Betsy Manning, SMC ´87, CLA ´08, talks about photographing some of her favorite buildings in Philadelphia—which she calls "architectural wallflowers." (Video by: Megan Chiplock)

A graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Manning headed to Temple on a scholarship and was taken under the wing of Edward Trayes, a renowned journalist and a professor of journalism in the School of Media and Communication. "I always favored pictures of things," she says. "I was just fascinated by infrastructure, and wanted to understand when, how and why things were built." She was the second-ever photojournalism graduate in Temple history.

Manning plans to continue photographing buildings around Philadelphia in an effort to preserve what she believes is an important piece of the city´s past. "I know most of the buildings I photograph will be either altered—people say ´renovate,´ but I say´ruin´—or demolished," she says. "There´s not much I can do about that, so I do the only thing I can, which is document them."

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