The Annotated Zoe Strauss

The stories behind some of the local photographer's favorite shots

This month, celebrated Philadelphia photographer­ Zoe Strauss lands a 10-year retrospective­ at the Art Museum—along with close to 40 billboards around town featuring her shots (without captions­ or words of any kind). Here, the 41-year-old South Philly-ite shares the stories­ behind some of her favorites from the billboard series.

Antoinette Conti »  “She’s second-generation Italian-American and an awesome neighbor. I love her. She never ceases to have a completely irrelevant and hysterical statement in relation to almost anything.”

Car Submerged In Swamp »  “This is Venice, Louisiana, during the BP crisis. It’s at a meeting point where many of the displaced out-of-work fishermen gathered to exchange news, at a bar just on the other side of this photo. I have no idea how the car got that far into the swamp. It’s a mystery.”

Boy In Pound Store »  “Brighton, England, during Gay Pride weekend, which is like Mardi Gras in England. Disney World combined with the nonstop confetti explosion of Lady Gaga. And then there was just this kid standing in a dollar store.”

Woman In Front Of Blowout »  “This is outside a bar called the Blowout in Morgan City, Louisiana. She was dressed up in this unbelievable glitter outfit, and it was before noon. She had not gone home from the night before. I don’t remember what made her laugh so hard. She also had one artificial leg.

Charday, Day Before Shipping Out To Army »  “Charday many years ago helped me make a film, and we stayed in touch. She was in foster care, aging out, and was very eager to go into the Army. This is the day before she shipped out. She would have gone to Iraq but got a terrible hip fracture during training.”

Fireworks at Juniper and Reed »  “I think the ambiguity of this is pretty great. It’s actually New Year’s Eve at midnight, when my neighbor has a huge illegal fireworks display that’s absolutely spectacular. But the image here is also reminiscent of an IED; it evokes a hint of war.”

Matt Tune »  “He’s an angry fisherman who lost a great deal of his shrimping work due to the BP spill. This is outside his house on the bayou.”

Together We Make Dreams Come True »  “I was in Indiana, near Terre Haute, and I saw this sign. That was it. The entire sign was just, ‘Together we make dreams come true,’ which is pretty remarkable.”

Women Kissing »  “I was driving back from Death Valley to Las Vegas, and I saw these two teenage girls holding hands in Beatly, Nevada. I said, ‘Are you guys gay?’ They said, ‘Yeah, we’re engaged. One day, we will be married.’ This was back in 2004. It was kind of a shocking moment, albeit also very tender and adorable.”

Fernando Treviño »  “Fernando lives directly across from me, sharing a wall with Antoinette [see photo 1]. He works for Democracia doing voter outreach in the Hispanic community.”