TEMA STAUFFER | MONTREAL, CANADA
Tema Stauffer is an American 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 nationally and internationally including a survey of Contemporary U.S. Photography at the Houston Fotofest 2010 Biennial. She has taught at Concordia University in Montreal, Ramapo College of New Jersey, 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 and as a curator and writer for Culturehall. She has contributed articles to PDNedu, American Photo Magazine, and other publications. She is the recipient of the 2012 Women in Photography – LTI/Lightside Individual Project Grant and a 2014 CCNY Darkroom Residency for her documentary portrait series, “Paterson,” depicting residents of Paterson, New Jersey during the years following the economic crisis in 2008. One of these portraits was a finalist for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2013 and was included in the competition exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery from 2013-14. The same portrait received third prize in The Photo Review Competition 2012. “Paterson” was presented in solo exhibitions at Baxter Street CCNY Gallery and Sasha Wolf Gallery in 2015.
What is your work about?
“Upstate,” my current photographic series, focuses on urban and rural landscapes, environments and relics in or around Hudson, New York. The first city chartered in the United States in 1785, Hudson has a long history of economic prosperity and decline. Located on the banks of the Hudson River, it has undergone vivid transitions from a thriving whaling and merchant seaport to a boom-and-bust factory town, then to a depressed and struggling city throughout much of the 20th century, and transformed again in recent decades by revitalization and economic growth. This small city is characterized by eclectic examples of early American architecture and is surrounded by agricultural communities cultivated by Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley. The photographs of “Upstate” record the imprint of American industrial and agricultural history left on settings throughout this region. Lyrically depicted are ordinary houses, front porches, decaying barns, parked cars, winter branches and evocative landscapes, along with portraits of local residents. Some of these photographs reveal a haunted or melancholic atmosphere that permeates the Hudson Valley, where the past remains deeply resonant.
How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
Each photograph in this series is captured with a medium or large-format camera on color film in existing light. Combining poetry with realism, these images express a quiet beauty and mystery in the vernacular architecture and artifacts reflecting the industrial era and rural settings in upstate New York and the shifting economic realities over time. Shooting on film lends itself to a slow and intentional process in making each image and also provides rich color palettes and textures specific to color negatives. Using a traditional photographic process is furthermore appropriate to authentically conveying the history of this region. Inspirations for this project include William Christenberry’s large-format photographs of architecture in rural Alabama, Richard Prince’s Ektacolor photographs of upstate New York, and Walker Evan’s Polaroids poetically recording signs and structures in the American landscape.