xST Captures Vanishing Black Neighborhoods

Storytelling in the visual arts context has the ability to shock and impose layers of juxtaposition that correlate with roots of history while embracing revival through subject, space and lighting choice.

These three latter components caught my attention when taking in the photography of West Philadelphia artist Shawn Theodore, popularly known as xST (pronounced “exist”). His thematic works address the reality of vanishing Black neighborhoods and the sea of people enduring the loss.

His technique is street. Working in the moment and opening self to the spontaneous quarrels of possibility, his subjects are passersby operating in their daily livelihood. After an introduction and conversation, xST’s muse of the moment is photographed against a colorful wall—random words and phrases, or simply unique spaces with hopes of refueling the Black existence currently fighting to stay alive.


Capturing faces and spaces across Philly, New York and Baltimore, xST’s work embodies the essence of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, acknowledges the vibrancy of character within a destructive construct, and flourishes with hope that gentrification will not wholly displace a culture.

Street Photographer, xST and daughter.

Street Photographer, xST and daughter.

Read the full interview and click through the photo gallery at!

Follow the artist on Instagram.