It was a late Monday afternoon and I was driving back from a weekend in DC, navigating the busy local streets of Philly. My mind was occupied by parking and whether or not I would find any by the time I got home and unloaded the car.
As I turned down a street in Grays Ferry, this cool looking kid appeared on a skateboard. He was dressed in rolled up, gray sweat pants, a cool oversized grey sweat shirt and a backpack with a cat-like character attached. As I spotted him the wind was blowing in his hair and his vibe called out to me. I quickly rolled down the window and asked if he would let me photograph him and interview him for the project. He said yes and I pulled the car over and put on the blinkers.
It was a hot, humid day and I found a nearby tree's shade for us to stand under while we talked. Amid sirens, people walking past and the general hustle of Philly streets we had a great conversation.
Name: Allyus Jon Wright
Age: Turning 19 in 6 days
Photographed in: Gray's Ferry Avenue
Lives in: I've lived here (in Gray's Ferry) my whole life actually
Occupation: I haven't really done anything yet, all I've done really is take pictures. I go around and take pictures of whatever's around Grays Ferry.
1. It could be said that life is one big Improv. Where do you find yourself having to improvise in your day-to-day life?
Allyus: That means like like being a facade?
Kat: Fair, How would you define it? and then I'll share my definition.
A: When you don't know what to do, you improvise. To find another way to get to your goal. Improvising is kind of like throwing a ball into the dark and you kind of see what happens. You just try to see what your outcome will be, even though you don't really know what you're gonna do... at least that's what I believe improvising is.
K: Yeah that's pretty close to how I might define it. So where do you so see yourself having to improvise in your day-to-day life?
A: Really nothing. There's nothing. I just do things, I guess. I never really think about them too much. I do what feels right, to me. Whatever feels right to me doesn't feel like improvising because I kind of just do it and I just like go. Like if I get asked to do anything that I really don't know how to do, I'll try my best to do it. I just take pictures, that's really all I do is Skate every day and take pictures. It's the same routine every day
K: So is there a point where you're like, I want to take a picture but the light's a little different so then you have to move around?
A: There are days where I definitely feel like I can't take a picture, but most times I feel like I'm lying to myself. I feel like if I don't go outside I'm not gonna find the picture that I think I can get. So even if the rains or if the light is a little bad or even if it's night outside there's usually something you can always take a
picture of. I've actually been practicing taking more pictures in the rain. I usually would skip days in the rain because I can't bring my skateboard
obviously. So I would just stay home and I would wait until it was sunny again
but I realized that there are pictures you can only get in the rain. You can't get the same pictures you get right here in the rain so I decided to take that walk and just keep doing it, no matter where I'm at.
K: Well I would say that is actually improvising.
K: One way I would define improvising, is basically when something is not planned or if something is planned and does not go as planned and you have to make a new, very quick decision to to go with the flow. So actually despite what you said it sounds like you're improvising all the time. Cause you're in flow and you're just going with what life is giving you and you're adding to it and making something new. So the days that you go out and you're and you're like oh it's not sunny but I could go and take a picture because it's raining-- you're improvising with the rain. You're making it work with the circumstances that you're given.
A: I like that, then yeah I guess you could say. yeah
K: This conversation is totally improvised right? We didn't plan it. I'm asking you questions, you're answering them and you're adding new stuff to it. That's totally improvising. You're great at it.
A: Thank you I never thought about it like that.
2. What is your hidden talent?
A: Cooking. I actually try my best to cook as much as I can. It's also part of my process here. I go outside and take some pictures and I'll be hungry so I usually stop by the Fresh Grocer right there and I'll usually grab some ingredients, go into my house. I usually make things that are more like Asian culinary because I like more of Asian culinary foods. I actually made fried rice last night. It was pretty good. It's usually what I do. It's a way to me for me to digress and calm down every day since I don't really have anything I'm doing.
I'm going to Youth Build next month. It's a place in Philly where if I get in and if I get past the beginning two weeks, I can graduate from there and also leave with a trade. I actually ended up dropping out of school because of mental issues. I actually have schizoaffective. And it held me back for a lot of my High School experience. It started with my sophomore year too. So it was midway and it everyone everything hit me like a hammer and then my junior year and the end of the sophomore year we had Covid.
K: Do you mind if I ask to explain what it is?
A: It's called schizoaffective. It's like schizophrenia but schizoaffective is more mood-based. It's basically, if I'm stressed out or if something happens that's when they're really bad. My whole process on trying to deal with the mental illness has been definitely difficult. It started back in my sophomore year and I went to outpatient in sophomore year outpatient junior year and then I even went to inpatient in my senior year and that's like when you actually get put in there and that's when I got diagnosed. I never really tried to dive into it. I never really liked to dive into what was wrong with me because I didn't want that to stop me from doing what I wanted to do. The more I worried about my issues, the more I felt bad for myself and doing that at the end of my performance to do things like this (holds up skateboard) every day. So to keep myself okay and to be able to do things I like to do, I do my process every day. I usually post on Instagram --my pictures and then I just go on. It's not like I even have a high following or anything. I really just do it to do it. Instagram for me is like a diary, a book that I like to have just in case I'm not here one day. I want somebody to look back and see what I did do. See who I was before and who I am now. That's all it is.
K: Did it feel helpful to have the diagnosis? Did it give you some clarity?
A: A little bit. I try to ignore it though. People see schizophrenia as a very big problem. And it is a very big problem. But I don't want to feel bad for myself you know like I said before. I just don't want to focus on that. I want to focus on what I am, who I am and I'm not gonna let that stop me from doing all this stuff--skating around, doing my thing.
3. What inspires you today?
A: Pictures. I was out here yesterday it was kind of rainy I actually made a really good run for two hours skating before it rained over here Grace Ferry Avenue but it's completely sunny today. I'm gonna take advantage of these pictures and take advantage of the skating the whole day. Everything it has for me they got
K: What do you like to take pictures of
A: Everything. I don't like to include industrial human-made buildings
man-made buildings to me seem to ruin the way that nature feels so I like to
always if I try my best to take pictures without any maybe like man-made
K: That is hard living in a City like Philadelphia.
A: I've never been anywhere else I mean I wish I kind of was but I really have never been anywhere else but New York. My boyfriend actually lives in Georgia and I wish I lived in Georgia. They have waterfalls there.
4. How do you feel about being photographed and why?
A: I'm definitely anxious, that's actually why I'm smiling so much because I am anxious. Usually I wouldn't smile like this. This is my smile smile. It's because I'm anxious I'm very very anxious but it's okay.
K: Why do you feel that way?
A: Even in high school I had a lot of problem with identity and liking myself. The voices never really made that any better. At least the thoughts I had and then the thoughts that would be piggybacked off of were really bad for me. It was bad and it really I didn't like myself for a long time. Then eventually I was enjoying more things, enjoying more things about myself, enjoying things that I like to do and then my whole personality was not revolved around how I look, but who I am as a person, how I treat other people and that's what makes me who I am. As long as I'm true to myself.
(Then we were interrupted by a barrage of busses, emergency vehicle sirens, wind...)
5. What piece of advice have you heard that you use or think about the most often?
A: Take time to figure out who you are. Every single day try to be a better you.
6. What's something that you believe but cannot prove?
A: I believe the world can be a way kinder place. I feel like if we all tried hard enough everything could be a lot easier than what it is right now. The people who usually do bad things, it's usually always a cycle. Somebody does something wrong to someone else that they didn't like. And instead of ever facing the problem head on or having a confrontation where you talk reasonably, we do things that seem similar to what they've done to us, and the cycle goes on and on an on...until eventually we're all being really rude to each other. Very, very rude. There are people who are so full of hatred because of these cycles that happen all the time that my initial talking to them will seem very meaningless. They're rude and angry and it's usually because of something that happened to them and instead of trying to face that problem themselves they put everything outward.
I feel like everybody can be a lot nicer to each other.