If you ever wanted to know what it looks like to be an American, or more importantly, a human being, I think Mike Peters would be able to show you. Discovering his poignant, authentic, and delicious portraits of the common man (thanks to Michael Sebastian) has been similar to stuffing yourself at an all you can eat buffet and still wanting more. I have gone through his images again and again, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
Mike’s early years as a newspaper reporter, and subsequent years as a commercial photographer creating corporate annual reports, working in advertising and public relations, and with magazines and text book publishers has honed his ability to see what’s real and find those moments or details that distill the essence of a person. Mike approaches his subjects with curiosity and compassion, the two ingredients necessary to making honest portraits. He is currently the staff photographer at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ and still finds time to make his own rarefied work.
Mike has been working on a project entitled, The Dream–“my story of where I live on the faces of those I photograph”. He is working to make this not only into a multi-media project, but eventually a book (publishers, take note!).
I began this project as a search in which I didn’t know what I was looking for. All I knew for sure was that I was deeply unsettled by many of the events that seemed to come right after the turn of this new millennium. I was interested in what it looked and felt like to be in this place, at this time. I decided to keep my photographic wandering within a part of the world that I knew intimately, the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.
Not having an answer in mind, I searched and found faces, which lead me to questions. I wondered what each face had seen throughout its life, and how the person behind it had transformed it by experience and emotion. The faces I saw made me imagine the stories that each could tell, stories far more fascinating, complex and challenging than can be found in any fiction, or supermarket tabloid.
It seemed to me that there was ample evidence that people were still expressing “The American Dream” through the things they did in public. Working, playing. raising a family, being with friends, showing their allegiances, living the ordinary life of an average American.
For the people I’ve photographed, largely working class, life has not gotten any easier in the past ten years, and I suspect that the next ten will bring no relief. Yet, I get a sense that there is still hope for the future, but it is tempered with the fear that our best days may be behind us.
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