2015. Joey Campbell, at age 24, stands for a portrait in his bedroom, under the basement stairs of an apartment he shares with family. I first met Joey Campbell hanging out on the street in Whitney Pier in 2005 when he was 14 years old. Tough on the surface, but shy to talk to, he fought hard to hold back a smile as I joked with him. Eventually he agreed to stand for a portrait, but didn't share much of his personal story with me. I left that day knowing very little about him, and I wouldn't see him again for another 10 years.
His portrait always held strong meaning, because for me, he represented the last generation of this steel city's story — a boy, full of potential, who saw the past come to a close, and who would grow to be a man through an uncertain future.
Fast forward 10 years, and I'm back shooting in Whitney Pier. One day at a local corner store, I spot that signature hair towering over a rack of potato chips and discount DVDs. I bark “Joey...that you bro?”. He remembered me. I felt flattered, and he agreed to do another portrait with me, and this time a brief interview as well.
I learned that his lifelong nickname was “Noodles”, after his signature hair. That he, like most, lived through hard times growing up in Whitney Pier, and that he was the grandson of a well known steel worker. Now at age 24, he was going back to school with plans to pursue a career in IT. © Steve Wadden