PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In the beginning, Zoe Strauss of South Philadelphia didn’t see herself as a photographer.

“I didn’t see myself moving out of the job that I had as a babysitter,” said Strauss.

But when Zoe Strauss started taking pictures 12 years go, her life changed forever.

“Look at what’s going on,” Strauss said excitedly as she stood on the corner of Passyunk Avenue and Reed Streets. “We’re standing on this corner talking, and here’s this billboard of my awesome neighbor Fernando and I’m just some lady.”

The 42-year-old has made a name for herself over the past decade. Strauss’s candid photos of interesting people and places has captured international attention. Since January, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been featuring her work in an exhibition called Zoe Strauss: Ten Years.

“The exhibition at the museum was very important for me to have a component that was outside as well as inside,” said Strauss.

Through the art museums billboard project, Zoe’s work can be seen throughout the city. Her pictures tell stories. At 34th and E. Grays Ferry, a billboard shows a woman holding the sweatshirt of by her late husband, who died of cancer. At 25th and Washington, a tattoo that reads, “I love you”, becomes clearer as you get closer to the billboard. Sometimes Zoe says she takes pictures of her friends like Fernando Trevino.

The 35-year-old Mexican immigrant lives across the street from Zoe. He’ll become a U.S citizen this year. Right now he’s the Northeast Regional director of a national group encouraging Latino’s to vote. He says he never expected to see his face overlooking a South Philadelphia neighborhood.

“I think the important thing is, it’s not about me, it’s about how the South Philly neighborhood is growing,” said Trevino.

For Zoe, it’s about bringing life to everyone’s story, no matter how great or how grim it is. Zoe Strauss: Ten Years will be featured at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until April 22nd.

To find out more about the stories behind the photos, visit

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