Tema Stauffer | The Ballad of Sad Young Men
At the end of the summer of 2008, I had a conversation with a friend in Minnesota who taught workshop in a theatre department, and he described an assignment he had proposed to his students to create musical performances based on songs that resonate with “our stories, our hopes, our dreams, and our losses.” The song that my friend had chosen as an example of his own source of inspiration was “The Ballad of Sad Young Men,” written by Frances Landesman and sung by Shirley Bassey and other female vocalists. Besides its relevance to his experiences as a gay man now in his forties, the song has been significant to the larger gay community as melancholic reflection on a rite of passage.
I began to contemplate the notion of “sad young men,” and how I might examine this subject as a photographer. I had recently started a relationship with a musician who lives in Binghamton, New York, and during my trips to visit her, I became increasingly familiar with this small city where the rebellious appearances and emotional struggles of young men were both explicit and poignant on its declining Main Street.
In September, I drove along Main Street from one end of town to the other, looking for young men whose sense of rebellion and vulnerability struck a nerve in me, and I approached these young men to ask if I could shoot portraits of them in the locations where they were found. I was interested in exploring the internal and external struggles of these subjects, as well as the ephemeral beauty and heightened sexuality of male adolescence.
As the economic crisis struck our country this fall, the metaphor of “Main Street” became central to dialogue in politics and the media about the condition of working and middle-class Americans. I continued to make trips to Binghamton throughout the fall and winter, and I remained on or near Main Street searching for “sad young men” in their formative stages during a particularly anxious and distressed period of American life.
Francesca Romeo | Untitled
I want to rip at the edges lightly to uncover something frail. I find beauty in the aberrant, people with psychological disorders, suffering from addiction or those dealing with a transition that resonates emotive. To highlight this I look at the minutiae of physical disrepair, or the exhaustion apparent in languid bodies. Drawing upon the aesthetics of film noir and the tradition of classical painting, I create a heightened sense of realism without staging. Run down apartments, old studios, abandoned buildings and dark spaces are my backgrounds, while the foreground always hints at something lost or unsettled.I want the drama of daily life realized as a cinematic moment distilled, startling and unadulterated.
Tema Stauffer is a photographer based in Brooklyn. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1995 and received a MFA in Photography from The University of Illinois at Chicago in 1998. Her solo exhibition, American Stills, was shown at Jen Bekman Gallery in 2004, where she has also participated in seven group shows. The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College selected fifteen images from this body of work for their Midwest Photographers Project. She was a finalist for The McKnight Photography Fellowship in 2005 and nominated for the KLM Paul Huf Award in 2008. She has recently exhibited at Randall Scott Gallery in Washington, DC. Tema teaches at The School of the International Center of Photography. website | Daniel Cooney Fine Art
Francesca Romeo lives and works in New York City. She attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate where she studied English Literature and later she received a dual Master’s degree from Pratt Institute in Photography and Art History. Her primary interest is in documentary photography and cinema verite. She has self-published two books of photographs, entitled Mars and Elegy. Mars chronicles her years working as a bartender in which, she interviewed, photographed, and filmed her patrons struggling with severe addictions to cocaine, alcohol and heroin. Elegy extends outward into her subjects homes while looking at the nature of pathos and intimacy within various subcultures. Her work has been exhibited at: Art In General, A.M. Richards Gallery, PS 122, the University of Southern Illinois and is currently on view at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in Manhattan. Aside from her images, Francesca also writes photo criticism of contemporary photography and reviews recent openings. website | Daniel Cooney Fine Art