Newark began for me on foot and photography has been an extension of my awareness, both physical and spiritual. The Nork! Photo Walk is a retreat, a walk I have already taken many times in my own city. It’s something I might do on any given Saturday afternoon, except this time accompanied by 180 people.
The idea for the first photo walk came in September 2020. My good friend and avid Newark photographer Chrystofer Davis approached me about doing something for the anniversary of celluloid film being patented in Newark. Years ago I had been on one random photo walk with a small group of no more than 15 people and so that’s where my expectations were set. We whipped something together in a few days — a meeting place, a route, some giveaways and raffles for guests — and posted our innocent event flyer on Instagram. We wanted to remove any uncertainty about carrying a fancy camera and encouraged guests to even just show up with their cell phone.
Our first walk we forecasted maybe 30 people. We knew enough photographers between the both of us that that was a number we felt comfortable with. We were really stunned to have guided 120 people through parts of downtown Newark. Stopping at the freshest murals in the area and two parks in the downtown area — we ended at the Plume House right outside Broad Street Station. The Plume House hosts a plaque out front that informs passersby that this was the location where celluloid film was invented in 1887 by Hannibal Goodwin.
Our second walk was done to coincide with the Cherry Blossom Festival in Branch Brook Park. A healthy 80 people met us in front of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart to take in the scenes as we circled the Branch Brook Park Lake.
Our third and most recent walk took place in the Ironbound section of Newark. It was our biggest production yet. Having started independently, we were thrilled to have had six organizations on board supporting our efforts. Meeting at one end of the Newark Riverfront Park, about 180 people joined Chrys and I as we walked down the Passaic River before turning to industrial, recreational, and residential areas of the neighborhood. While the walk was guided, people took to their own fancies — walking at their own pace and breaking off from the group for a minute or two to catch a shot. This was expected and silently encouraged.
While guests poured in from the Bronx, Brooklyn, and South Jersey, there was one individual who took the prize for mileage traveled. He was in Newark coincidentally around the time our first walk occurred. He entered a café where a friend of mine worked and, while setting his film camera atop the table, was informed that a couple photographers were doing this thing the following weekend that he ought to check out. Travis, who lives in Boise, Idaho, has now flown back into Newark twice so that he could be in attendance at our second and third walk. He has now become a friend as well as a digital pen pal with Chrys and I as we share work across 2400 miles.
What started as an modest attempt to bring together photographers in the City of Newark, has become a yearly cherished get-together event for photographers from all over the tri-state area. The magic of an event such as the photo walk lies in making space for like-minded individuals in a place that is conducive to their craft. The street photographers were in their living room. The portrait photographers had plenty of subjects to study. Studio photographers got their share once we walked up the ramp into ODR Studios for a post-walk photo session. And the hobby and new photographers were able to garner inspiration and courage from just rubbing shoulders with so many other camera-carrying persons.
Click here to see Unique Photo's Video Recap of our third Photo Walk and here to see a write-up of our second Walk on NJ.com.