WEST ORANGE, NJ - Anyone who lives in West Orange would be happy to tell you of its strengths: its beautiful, tree-lined streets, its great schools, its diverse population. Now, thanks to a new photo documentary, "A Day in West Orange," everyone can see for themselves all this town has to offer.
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, 17 area photographers volunteered to canvass West Orange for 24 hours. Their goal was to create a dynamic documentary that would capture the essence of the township’s diverse population, and reflect its daily community activities in the workplace, at public schools, businesses, recreational facilities and houses of worships. All of the images were created in a 24-hour period between midnight on Wednesday and midnight on Thursday.
The project was the organized by West Orange Arts Council Vice Chair Mansa K. Mussa, a documentary photographer.
“I didn’t know much about West Orange when I moved here seven years ago, but I found a vibrant community with a jazz club, a museum, a great library, and a functioning arts organization,” Mussa said. “I thought this project would be a great gift to the township and would also draw attention to the Arts Council’s need to find a facility where it can offer classes and workshops to the community.”
Many of the photographs at institutions like the Edison National Historical Park and the West Orange Public Library were set up prior to the day’s shoot, but some of the best photographs were candid images of township residents working at food pantries, biking in South Mountain Reservation, or delivering water to a convenience store.
“What I found out working on the project was how much happens in such a small area over the course of a day,” said photographer Mayer Chalom, a junior at West Orange High School. “It was amazing to just walk down Main Street and see the variety of people carry on their daily lives from an outsider’s perspective.”
The other photographers who participated in the documentary were Terry Boddie, Bill Cofone, Tony Cordoza, Nancy Heins-Glaser, George Kopp, Annette Kushen, Nathea Lee, John Mitrano, Mary Ellen Morrow, Mansa K. Mussa, Amelia Panico, Yves Norton Pierre, Marian Rubin, Heidi Sussman, Joya Angola Thompson and Doug Zacker.
Selected from thousands of images capturing the faces and places of West Orange, "A Day in West Orange" premieres March 5 through April 29 at Cooperman JCC MetroWest, 760 Northfield Avenue. It's free and open to the public during regular JCC hours. On March 11, Cooperman JCC MetroWest will host a gala opening reception from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. It also is free and open to the public.
The West Orange Arts Council is planning additional satellite exhibits at various township locations as well as programs for schools and local organizations. It also expects to publish a book about the project. For more information, contact the West Orange Arts Council at (973)324-9100, www.woartscouncil.org or www.wophotoproject.com.