Chrystofer Davis, Self-Portrait, 2019.
Newark based fine art photographer, filmmaker and teaching artist Chrystofer Davis, has been documenting the city during COVID-19 in a series titled, “Social Distancing in Newark.” Him and his frequent collaborator, Newark based artist and founder of the Nork! Project Gabe Ribeiro, have also been using their platforms to host a series of live Instagram discussions, “From Newark With Love,” on creating and documenting in Newark. Paul Robeson Galleries’ Associate Curator (Programs) Kristen J. Owens curated a selection of photographs from Davis’ series along with a brief q+a with the artist.
KO: What compelled you to begin the “Social Distancing in Newark” series and what, if anything, are you are hoping to convey?
CD: As a documentary/street photographer, I felt that it was important to capture and preserve this historical event that’s happening in our city. I created this series to spread awareness of whats currently happening in Newark and to document for future generations to reflect on. I know that in time we will move pass this pandemic, however, I believe that this will change how we will live and interact in our society for years to come.
KO: While out documenting the city, was there anything you discovered through observation or conversation with those you’ve photographed that surprised you? For example, any misinformation or outstanding perspectives on the moment we’re in?
CD: What surprised me was how empty the streets were, especially at peak hours. I’ve known Newark to be a lively place; the streets filled with people, vendors, and food carts. It just seemed that everything that once was there just suddenly vanished. Through conversation with the people I’ve captured, everyone seems to be cautious but calm. I think what the media portrays is that everyone is in panic, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
KO: In what ways has documenting COVID-19 impacted your art practice and/or wellbeing?
CD: For my personal work, it’s impacted me in a positive way. As a documentarian, the COVID-19 pandemic gave me a project to directly work towards, how a virus can affect people and businesses here in our city. In the act of documenting, I have taken a cautious approach when I engage with others and keeping a distance when I speak with them. Majority of my capturing has been outdoors, but whenever indoors I sanitize very frequent. This pandemic has kept me very aware of my surrounds.
KO: If you could leave the people of Newark with one message what would it be?
CD: All hope isn’t lost, if we continue to practice social distancing, quarantining, and work together as a community, we can overcome this.