Shine Portrait Studio is a project founded by artist Nick Kline and shaped collaboratively with Newark, NJ- based community partners. Originally proposed in 2007 as a pop-up studio in a Rutgers-owned vacant storefront off-campus, it was motivated by the desire to forge deeper connections between photography students and in the community. Ten years later, after not being realized, the project evolved as socially engaged artwork built on equity with local community partners.
The Shine facility occupies 3,500 square feet of studio space in the former Hahne & Company building located at 609 Broad Street. Like many early 20th-Century department stores, Hahne’s included a portrait studio, but more significantly, Hahne’s was also the site, in 1911, of legendary photographer James Van Der Zee’s first professional studio work.
In harmony with Van Der Zee’s portrayals of the community in Harlem, where he established himself after leaving Newark, Shine is a collaboration built on a foundation with local partners. This list includes a growing number of artists, entrepreneurs, and photographers whose life and work intersects deeply with Newark.
In 2007, early supporters for the project were Anonda Bell, Angelo Calilap, Steven Diner, Ned Drew, Joe Iscaro, Joaquin Mattias, Paula Neto, Paul Sternberger, and Ian Watson. The portrait studio proposal was revived in 2014 through the guidance and visionary new leadership of Chancellor Nancy Cantor, her Executive team and the Express Newark project. Express Newark, based at the Hahne’s site, is a “University - Community Collaboratory, that facilitates community engagement among Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) faculty, staff and students with community partners and residents of Greater Newark….Express Newark is a third space where the contributions of all artists: academic, community-based, expert or amateur, experience empowerment and are allowed the opportunity to grow and ultimately continue to drive the quality and impact of the arts on all Newarkers.”
Shine Portrait Studio further evolved with the support of Express Newark Co-Directors Victor Davson and Anne Englot. Foundational community partners were Tinnetta Bell, Tamara Fleming, Colleen Gutwein and Akintola Hanif. Mangue Banzima served as a consultant who mapped out the multifunctional use of the studio as an educational and revenue generating facility for professionals.
The name of the project, Shine, was first heard by Kline during a lecture by Art Historian, Dr. Nikki A. Greene, at the Black Portraitures II: Revisited, Conference at NYU, in February 2016. After the lecture and in a casual conversation Kline learned that Dr. Greene was raised in Newark, NJ. After such a long search, the name “Shine” connected deeply to Van Der Zee’s legacy and to being of Newark. The name of the project also derives from Krista A. Thompson’s book, Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice, which explores photographic practices of performing for the camera, enhancing visibility, self-representation, and cultural formation. Further inspired by Deborah Willis’s description of James Van Der Zee’s artistic practice, Shine strives to be a space where photographer and subject can “... expand spiritually, emotionally and symbolically.”
Shine officially opened its doors to the public in January 2017. Daniel Anton Johnson guided the initial launch the project as Program Coordinator. Anthony Alvarez joined the team in August 2017 as Studio Supervisor.