Paterson (2009 – 2014), documents residents of a post-industrial city in New Jersey during the years following the economic crisis. Paterson is a historic city near the Great Falls of the Passaic River, once prosperous from its mills and silk manufacturing industry.
Founded in 1791 by Alexander Hamilton and others and envisioned as the nation’s first planned industrial city, Paterson offered jobs and opportunity to an immigrant labor force in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The city is the setting of novels by John Updike and Junot Diaz, and has inspired the poetry of William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg, as well as the architectural photography of George Tice. The third largest city in New Jersey, Paterson began to decline economically during the 1960s and 70s, and has continued to face high rates of unemployment since the recession. The portraits focus on the self-expression of working-class and economically marginalized Americans of the diverse racial and ethnic groups comprising Paterson’s population. Shot in natural light on the streets with a medium-format camera, each image explores the psychology of an individual who reveals him or herself willingly to the camera’s gaze. The minimal backgrounds suggest the urban environments these subjects occupy; however, these straightforward, realist, and classically composed photographs concentrate on faces and the depth of human experience that is spoken through them. These portraits contribute to a contemporary dialogue about the current economic reality and the experiences of Americans who exist on our ever-widening margins.
About Tema Stauffer
Tema Stauffer is a photographer whose work examines the social, economic, and psychological landscape of American spaces. Her work has been exhibited at Sasha Wolf Gallery, Daniel Cooney Fine Art Gallery, and Jen Bekman Gallery in New York, as well as galleries and institutions internationally including a survey of Contemporary U.S. Photography at the Houston Fotofest 2010 Biennial. She has taught at Ramapo College, College of Staten Island, School at ICP, William Paterson University, and Toxico Cultura in Mexico City. She was awarded an AOL 25 for 25 Grant for innovation in the arts in 2010 for her combined work as an artist, curator, and writer. She received third prize in The Photo Review Competition 2012, and she was chosen as a finalist for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2013. Her work was included in the competition exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. She is the recipient of the 2012 Women in Photography – LTI/Lightside Individual Project Grant and a Camera Club of New York 2014 Darkroom Residency for her documentary portrait series, Paterson. [Official Website]