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Image 1: Comparing 1916 vs 2016 Copyright Myles Zhang 2016, older image from Newark Public Library

            Diving into the rise of industry over time along the Newark Bay and Passaic River which flows into each other, it speaks for itself within the image above.This photo was retrieved from The Newark Public Library Digital Repository in the Newark Then vs Now collection. Myles Zhang photographed the image to the right which is 2016. He is a Newark born and raised american historian, who upon researching his website, I learned has many studies and photography of Newark specifically. He also has corresponding artwork inspired by his photography and visits to the Newark Bay and Passaic River. Zhang states on his page with this artwork  “It is now this industrial town’s polluted heart. The corporate towers of Newark’s “Renaissance” meet industrial history at the riverbank. The murky waters contain secrets of illegal dumping and toxic pollution that will remain buried for eternity, gradually leaking their oily toxins down stream. The industrial past clings on, refusing to vanish in forgotten waters. The river of change, the Passaic River, is a place of shifting contrasts, where past meets present.” It is important to understand who took this photo in the same spot as the one 100 years prior, their intentions and opinions. His artwork and photography shows how he interprets how this once maybe beautiful clean river was filled with toxic waste and runoff. 

            In Image 1 it is quite noticeable that there is not as much water traffic by the ports within, however although maybe there is less transportation, the spirit of the past mistakes and industrial pollution may be less noticeable now but the lasting effects linger. One can see the development of industry within the 100 year span difference in this side by side.The focal point of both images is the kind of disappearing body of water, making one wonder where this contaminated water may move into next. The photo moves your eye towards the right where that kind of vanishing point where the water disappears into. One can assume this image of the passaic river is flowing into the Newark Bay neighboring it. Zhang also made the 2016 photo black and white as the original photo to mimic it. The scale, curve and size are almost exact as he tried to replicate the photo to show the area now. 

Image 2 & 3: Artwork by Myles Zhang, left titled Dredging Toxic Industrial Runoff buried in the River and right titled Forgotten Industrial Waste on the Passaic River

            In Zhang’s artwork, images 2 & 3 it is obvious that the industry shown is being displayed in a negative connotation, and rightfully so. In image 2 “Dredging Toxic Industrial Runoff buried in the River” the main focus of the image is that kind of crane like contraption in the water and the industrial buildings behind it. All the colors in the image seem to come across as dull, except for what looks like a barn to the left of the industrial building. It is obvious that the water is cloudy with remnants of the previous blue water being mixed with this smoggy black water with blurry reflections. This kind of depiction of the water is similar to the way the water is drawn in image 3, “Forgotten Industrial Waste on the Passaic River”. Image 3 is particularly striking as you see the beautiful trees above with the grass, and on the ground level to the average person that is what they might see. However, below it is the green gloop toxic waste being dumped into the river. This hole with the waste pouring out seems to be the focal point of the image, making the viewer’s eye move from left to right. As you move across the drawing, one notices the buildings in the background by the horizon line. There are even tires floating in the polluted water which shows that many industrial contributions were dumped into the water including toxic waste, and even product litter. 

            All images discussed show that the Newark Bay and its surrounding areas were heavily polluted and filled with toxic chemicals. In the historic image we can see that this pollution may be more discreet now, but it still exists. Especially the effects of past industry can still live in present day waters.

https://www.myleszhang.org/