How an Inquirer photographer used lifeless figures to capture Atlantic City’s ‘Zombie’ street

Every Monday, we present a gallery of recent pictures taken by our staff photojournalists and tell the story behind one of them. This week photography intern Miguel Martinez talks about finding a way to show life on the Atlantic City street the mayor once compared to “The Night of the Living Dead.”

Police officers are seen through the store window patrolling on foot along Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City, on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. Mayor Marty Small Sr. assigned a police task force to increase patrol along the street.
MIGUEL MARTINEZ / Staff Photographer
Police officers are seen through the store window patrolling on foot along Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City, on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. Mayor Marty Small Sr. assigned a police task force to increase patrol along the street.

Inquirer photography intern Miguel Martinez has been there many times but knew Atlantic City “only as a tourist place.” On assignment last week, he had the opportunity to explore a part of town he’d never visited before.

Living in Camden, the senior communication major and editor-in-chief for The Whit, Rowan University’s student newspaper, Martinez could see similarities between his town and Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City.

He and Inquirer Jersey Shore reporter Amy S. Rosenberg were doing a story there about the new mayor and the city’s onetime shopping hub that had become overrun with drug addicts, homeless people, alcoholics, and regular daytime drug dealing. While a city councilman last year, Mayor Marty Small Sr. said, “It’s The Night of the Living Dead. It is Zombie City.” Since taking office, Small has stepped-up patrols, drawn from an existing community policing force and other units, to loudly declare a zero tolerance approach to the avenue.

As a young photographer, Martinez said he feels “the pressure to get ‘the shot.’ I knew I had to get a picture of the mayor, but then I began to look for a more interesting picture that could help illustrate the story.” While the reporter talked to business people on the avenue, Martinez walked through their stores, looking out the windows. “This is what the store owner sees every day," he thought, as he photographed the scene through lifeless mannequins.

>>SEE MORE: Last week’s staff photo gallery and the staff photography page

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