David Christopher Orrell

David Christopher Orrell (b. 1992) is a self-taught photographer who lives and works in Newark, NJ, with a discipline in portrait and documentary photography. Orrell's art is rooted in a practice that explores the beauty and vitality of the Black figure. By exploring themes of intimacy and identity, both individually and culturally, Orrell's work encompasses the complexities of Blackness. At its core, Orrell's work is a character study of himself, taking into consideration the intersectionality of collective memory and restorative imagination--balancing what was, is, and could be as he continues a legacy of Black portraiture.

Orrell grew up in his grandparents' home, surrounded by family albums in which his grandmother told him stories of his family's history. Although his whole family enjoyed taking pictures, his aunt was an amateur photographer and bought him his first digital camera in high school. Orrell's love for stories eventually led him to films and comic books. In 2010, Orrell enrolled at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he took his first film course and learned about photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks. Developing an interest in filmmaking, Orrell began filming the lives of his friends, conducting interviews that explored themes of identity and uncertainty. Continuing his passions in filmmaking, Orrell graduated with a BA and MA in Mass Media Communication in 2015 and began his career as a production studio professional, working for studios like Marvel Entertainment, NBCUniversal, and FX Network. It was during this time that Orrell rediscovered his artistic calling for photography. Orrell was introduced to film photography by a friend and colleague, resulting in the purchase of his first film camera, a Canon AE-1, in the winter of 2017. What started as an experiment, photographing family, friends, and his surroundings, soon became a search for truth and understanding. Using vintage cameras and through trial and error, Orrell taught himself the fundamentals of photography while also learning about the works of Louis Draper, Ming Smith, Deana Lawson, Roy DeCarava, Danny Dawson, and many more.



Exhibition History

2024- Made In Newark: Queer Black Bodies, Curated by Darryl Dwayne Walker, Monisha Bernard, and Imani Lee Hector, The Newark Museum of Art, Newark, NJ

2023- Hairitage, Curated by Favour Ritaro, Apexart & Pratt Institute, New York, NY

2023 - Cross Cultural Perspectives, Curated by Adrienne Wheeler, Newark Arts, Newark, NJ

2023- Hip Hop Through the Lens, Curated by Luisa Pinzon-Romero, Obscura Darkroom, Newark, NJ

2023- Nork Photo Fest, Curated by Gabe Ribeiro, The Nork Project , Newark, NJ

2023- Club Gallery, Curated by Ianko Joseph, NCS Solutions & Photodom NYC, New York, NY

2023- Reflection, Curated by LaQuann Dawson & Michael DajourMOBI NYC, New York, NY

2022 - Artful Healing, Curated by Adrienne Wheeler, Newark Arts, Newark, NJ


2023-  The City of Newark, Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Creative Catalyst Grant.

2022- Project for Empty Space, Newark Artist Accelerator Grant.

2021- The City of Newark, Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Creative Catalyst Grant.

2020- The WBGO Community COVID Response Mini-Grant.

Photography Associations

2021- Newark Artists Database - Project Empty Space Inc.

2020- Up Next Photographers - Diversify Photo. 

Publications & Media

Orrell, D. (2023, September 1). Fall New York Art GuideHyperallergic 

Orrell, D. (2020, December 18).  Album artwork. Clarity (Acoustic)- EP, by ByHaze, Camp Clarity LLC.

Orrell, D. (2020, June 5). Photo. The Tension Between #Blacklivesmatter and Black Respectability Politics, by Nakia Alston. Medium.

Orrell, D. (2020, May 12). Artist Submission: David Christopher. Pineapple.

Orrell, D. (2019).  Film poster image. The Rest Is Just Noise, by Christopher Hall, Hall Brothers Moving Company


2022 – UNFCU's Talk About IT: Winter ’22 Panelist, New York, NY, February 25.

2022 – Paul Robeson Galleries’ Artist Talk: Spring ’22 Panelist, Newark, NJ, March 24.

Portfolio Reviews

2024-  11th Annual New York Portfolio Review- The New York Times

2022-  Up Next Photographers, 1st Annual Portfolio Review - Diversify Photo.

2021- Paul Robeson Galleries 

2021- American Photographic Artists- APA Los Angeles 


2015- B.A. & M.A. in Mass Media Communications, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ.

Subscribe to My Newsletter  Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.
Thank you!
Something went wrong. Please try again.
Using Format