Zoë Zimmerman is an acclaimed art photographer who has lived in Taos since she was seven years old. Born in New York City and raised on the south side of Taos, she has received renown internationally as a fine art photographer since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1986.
Her work is included in major museum collections across the country while she continues to live and work on the south side of Taos, making her art in a modest studio filled with natural light.
She continues to pursue her art career while earning a living as a working photographer, covering events, weddings and shooting headshots for other artists.
Her love of Taos, its culture and history has inspired this new, monthly series for Tempo.
You've had this idea percolating for some time now, in fact you first approached Rick Romancito about it. What was the inspiration for this new series?
Taos receives a lot of attention and draw from being an "artist's colony," an outdoor recreation destination, a historic Native American site and a spiritual mecca, but little attention is paid to the backbone of the community, which is the working people of Taos. Last year when the Taos News invited photographers to document 24 hours in Taos, I chose to shine a light on tradespeople in their work attire with the tools of their trade against the formal backdrop of my studio.
This launched a project that has been percolating in my mind for a long time. I have given some thought recently to who it is in my life I actually depend on and I've come to the conclusion that I cannot do my work unless I have a good electrician, a plumber, someone to make my perfect cup of coffee, deliver my packages, put up a fence, pump the septic tank, teach my children, grow the beautiful lettuce, make sure the water reaches my property and keep my Chevy on the road. These are the people who make it possible for me to pursue my endeavors and I am grateful to them. Grateful that my job is made easier by them doing their jobs well. I want to put attention to the people in our community who receive a paycheck but little applause. Or maybe I just need an excuse to photograph firemen.
My artistic inspiration for the series was Irving Penn's photographs of tradespeople in London, Paris and New York in the 1950s, which were included in his book "Worlds in a Small Room." The formality of the studio setting honors the dignity and pride of the subjects. It is my aim with this project to honor the workers and to document this particular place in this particular time. The collaboration with the Taos News is a perfect way to represent an underrepresented segment of our society. Everyone likes to get in the paper (as long as it isn't the police blotter ).
Tempo is excited about this opportunity to collaborate with you on this project, and hopeful that by the end of 2020, there will be a book with images to share, or at the very least a museum show - how do you see the project evolving?
The project can really go as far as I'm willing to take it. I would like it to be very comprehensive and intend to document in categories: welders, plumbers, waitresses, nurses, farmers, cooks, mechanics, etc. Some of the jobs are specific to Northern New Mexico (mayordomos and mud plasterers) and some more universal occupations are altered by the terrain and the culture (farmers, ranchers). I aim to capture something of this specificity.
The project is also a historic document as well as an artistic expression of the place where we live. The ultimate intention is for it to be published as a book, but as I am also in the habit of exhibiting my work, a show is definitely in order.
Can you tell us a little about this image. Who is Sarge and what does he do?
I had a difficult time coming up with a name for the job that Sarge does. He is a woodcutter but not exclusively. He gathers the bounty of the mountain and brings it back down to the valley - live trees with their root balls lovingly bound, piñon nuts, medicinal osha root, stories of enormous rattlesnakes.
The stories he tells are worth the price of a cord of wood. And the language he uses is quintessential Norteño Spanglish. His job is completely specific to this place. The live trees he sells are easily transplantable, but he is not. His roots in this valley go far too deep to unearth.
Zimmerman's work can be seen online at zoezimmerman.com.
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