April Saul, Camden, NJ: A Spirit Invincible, Eleven One Gallery, Firehouse #6, 339 N. Front Street, Suite B, Camden, New Jersey 08102, Historic Cooper Grant Neighborhood, On the Campus of Rutgers University
“I have been a photojournalist at the Philadelphia Inquirer for over three decades. For the last three years, I have written and photographed extensively about Camden, a city which has captured my heart. My goal has been not only to cover Camden’s problems, but to show its residents facing tremendous challenges with resilience and spirit. For the next year, I will be on leave from the Inquirer on an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship to document life in Camden. This page will be a place where I can share with you what I see, and welcome your thoughts and ideas on what stories need to be told.” – April Saul, Camden, NJ: A Spirit Invincible
April Saul is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She specializes in documentary photojournalism. Saul has photographed and written for The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1981. In 1997, Saul, along with Inquirer reporter Michael Vitez and photographer Ron Cortes, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Journalism for a series of articles on end-of-life care, telling the stories of terminally-ill patients who wished to die with dignity. – Wikipedia
“Our names are William and Ronja Butler, and we are the owners of Thomas Lift, LLC. William is a nationally-recognized artist and designer, and Ronja is the CEO of Thomas Lift Art and Design. We relocated from Des Moines, Iowa, to Camden, New Jersey, to open Eleven One Gallery and to expand our business, Thomas Lift. Our desire is to help bring restoration to the people of Camden. Thank you for joining us in doing good in the city of Camden.We invite you to explore our web site, view William’s art atEleven One Gallery, attend William’s live art events, visit our online store, and connect with us via social media. Also, please view the Justice link to see our heart and passion for love, justice & restoration. We strive to live simply and give generously. At least 10% of our sales and fees received for all art and design is given back to help and empower the enslaved, orphaned, and poor. Thank you for partnering with us in doing good.” – Eleven One Gallery and Thomas Lift Art and Design
3rd Thursday in Camden is an opportunity to do an art crawl through the emerging art scene in Camden NJ and Eleven One Gallery has become an art destination near the Rutgers University campus. Yes, that Camden. It’s funny how folks from New Jersey don’t like to cross the bridges to Philly and Philadelphians rarely leave the ten block radius of where they live. But both agree that Camden is a must to avoid. But things are changing in Camden with art galleries, writers clubs, new brew houses and investment along the waterfront. The view of Philly from Camden is world class and in time the distressed city will find new life thanks to the good works of people like April Saul who is documenting the life of the city with photography and William and Rojna Butler who have put down roots in the city and opened an art center called Eleven One Gallery.
The art show of photography by Pulitizer Prize winning photographer April Saul is the launch of a year long project to document the life of the city of Camden from the highs to the lows, the beautiful to the tragic and the happy to the sad. The gallery was crowded with families, artists and enthusiasts who find the hip vibe, the friendly atmosphere and sophisticated art to be a stimulating and illuminating destination. The photography documents the highs of when the step dance troupe called Sophisticated Sisters appeared on the TV show Dancing with the Stars and the lows of when a young kid was blinded for life by a stray bullet by a gangster trying to claim turf. There are photos of junkies, fields of crosses and sadness as well as beautiful images of happiness and uplifting strength of spirit. I talked with April Saul while photographer Jeff Stroud took photographs at the March 3rd Thursday art crawl event in the historic firehouse that now houses Eleven One Gallery.
I asked April Saul how long she has been photographing Camden life?
“Well, let’s see. I’ve always been photographing Camden because I’ve been at the Philadelphia Inquirer for over thirty years. But in January 2011 I was here during the massive public safety lay-offs and I was on the sidewalk watching the fire-fighters and the police officers turn in their badges and that’s when I really decided to make a commitment and kind of make Camden my unofficial beat. And I’ve tried to do lots of stories here in the last few years. It just seems like such a misunderstood city to me. And I love the people here.”
I commented how Camden could be like the edge cities around Cincinnati or Brooklyn to Manhattan that feed off the big cities and thrive.
“You know, I try not to be a policy wonk. My attraction to Camden, I think, is because I feel that there is a real heart to the city. And I feel like people tend to demonize Camden and it becomes this epitome of, you know, the screwed up American city and nobody wants to go there, it’s poor, it’s violent. And yet I see it as a place where people are tremendously resilient and trying to lead normal lives. I lust love the people here. That’s really more of where I’m coming from, it’s trying to find common ground.”
So, you used to work at the Inquirer?
“I still do! I’m on a leave of absence from the Inquirer for a year because I won a fellowship, the Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship. It’s terrific and they’re hard to get. I applied before and I finally got one to do this and I’m just thrilled. The Inquirer is actually helping and subsidizing my fellowship and they’re being terrific about it, it’s really good.”
What do you think of the Butlers and what they’re doing with Eleven One Gallery?
“Oh! I think it’s terrific what they’re doing. I think it’s crazy that Bill and his wife came from Iowa, you know? And that this appealed to them to do that and it’s a beautiful space. When they asked me if I wanted to show my work here I jumped at the chance to do it. And it was good because it’s the beginning of my fellowship and it was great way to get acquainted with people I haven’t already met in Camden. I’m excited!”
The Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship Program was established in 1965 in memory of Alicia Patterson, who was editor and publisher of Newsday for nearly 23 years before her death in 1963. One-year and six month grants are awarded to working journalists to pursue independent projects of significant interest and to write articles based on their investigations for The APF Reporter, a web published magazine by the Foundation and available on the web. Winners are chosen by an annual competition. The competition opens in June and all entries must be postmarked by October 1. Applications are accepted from U.S. citizens who are print journalists with at least five years of professional experience.
Mark your calendar for the next 3rd Thursday, take the Speedline to Camden and enjoy the arts crawl, believe me you will be inspired and amazed.
Like Camden, NJ: A Spirit Invincible on facebook
Like Eleven One Gallery on facebook
Like Jeff Stroud – Nature Spirit Photography on facebook
Written by DoN Brewer except where noted.
Photographed by Jeff Stroud – Nature Spirit Photography. Thank you so much Jeff for sharing your images. Jeff Stroud‘s street photography is included in the new book Black and White Street Group available on Blurb.com. Jeff Stroud‘s artwork is also available on Redbubble.com
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