It goes without question that the span of Walnut Street from Broad to 19th Streets serves as a veritable fashion runway. At any time of day, you’re bound to see Philly’s finest dressed and perfectly coiffed strutting. And, at any time of day, you’re just as likely to see folk stop mid-stride to pose and smile. And, just as likely, the person poised on the other side of the stance is street-style photographer “Big” Rueben Harley.
Every day, Harley captures another portion of the Philadelphia story. It is a story that he has been a part of crafting since he managed and played football at West Philadelphia High School. As a young adult, Harley became known for his work with Mitchell & Ness marketing development for some of the nation’s largest lifestyle brands. Nowadays, his photography continues to evolve as he flips chapters in his life trajectory.
“I’m just letting those chapters flip in my life it’s something that I picked up and I see where I wanted to take it,” explained Harley, who’s photographs will be on exhibit at Replica Creative, located 33 S. 18th Street on Rittenhouse Square, as part of this month’s “Replica After Dark.” “Everything that I have tackled in my life I did it to the highest degree, so I said if I’m going to tackle this I’m going to do it at that level—and be recognized for it. And so, I set out on the adventure. I connect the dots, and I see what’s missing and I open the door.”
Harley opened the door to his new life a little over two years ago when he received the gift of a camera in February 2010. “I always looked at things different — and I guess I can blame that on being left-handed and just being creative by nature — but yeah, I never sat down and said, ‘I want to be a photographer.’ I never even called myself a photographer because I see things totally different, so it’s being an artist first.”
Ruben, who was influenced by Gordon Parks, Henri Cartier- Bresson and Eve Arnold just to name few, then started his “Street Gazing” website.
“I tell everyone that I was ‘Big Rube’ before I picked up the camera,” said Harley. “So, it’s just letting an extension of my creativity just prosper. My feeling is that if you tell me no, than I’m talking to the wrong person. I’m going to kick in the door.”
Harley says it’s all about believing in achieving your dreams.
“Just reach for the stars and live your dreams,” advises Harley. “Don’t be comfortable and complacent where you are at. What you dream about, act on it. We all have dreams, but a lot of people don’t act on it. I advise everybody to follow their mind and their heart, and don’t stop on making it every day.”
A showcase reception with Harley will be held Nov. 16 from 6-8 p.m. at Replica Creative.