MIKE PETERS — Truth in the Faces of Others

For decades Bloomfield resident Mike Peters has been photographing absolute strangers, and in the process seems to be able to see into their very souls. While just as Batman is sometimes Bruce Wayne, for twenty-two years Peters has been the official photographer for Montclair State University; it seems like from wherever you are on campus, you’ll be able to some of his work on view which is always able to capture the verve and drama of life on a college campus. But it’s in his personal projects we see the magic of his perception. He returns often, in some cases yearly, for decades, to places looking for people to photograph, whose stories he can tell with his camera.

As a child, Peters made many trips with his grandfather to the Jersey Shore by way of Newark Penn Station. “It looks much as it did when I was a young boy. I always felt a rush of excitement being there as it was my portal to and from another world” he says. “When I go the Penn Station, I feel close to my grandfather. I go there to make photographs of all the people that I saw as a child. Of course they are different now, but in a way they are the same.” Here, in Fast Food, Newark Penn Station, we find a McDonalds worker, who is, as Peters puts it: “Lost in her own moment.” He loves it when “all pretense falls away and they are completely themselves. It’s as human as they get.”

In Waiting For The Race, Wall Speedway, Peters finds himself at a favorite haunt where, like in Cheers, everyone seems to know everyone else. “Places like this are all over America,” he says, “but not so much in New Jersey.” Too many people are so calculated in everything about how they look, he thinks, here he can photograph “folks who are comfortable with themselves, and this place is so much about that”. This fellow is simply waiting for the race to start.

Every Fourth of July since 9/11 finds Peters in Ridgefield Park, where he photographs people at the longest-running parade in New Jersey. “It’s like Middle America, but three miles from Manhattan. The patriotism is refreshingly honest.” Man With Drum, Ridgefield Park, is a participant that he’s been seeing each time for years. This is Peters’ favorite portrait of him.


Peters grew up in Kearny, NJ, a few blocks away from Connolly’s Bar. One of those neighborhood places without even a sign, that everyone knows in towns like Kearny. As an adult, in 2009, Peters decided to finally go in for a look. He was waited on at the bar by the owner, and made her portrait on traditional film with a Hasselblad camera. Mrs. Connolly, Kearny, NJ

“As an artist, all I have to offer is my point of view, and I feel it’s my obligation to share it,” Peters tells us. And we’re glad he does. With his camera, he creates in-depth biographies, novel-length, but encapsulated within one square frame. Visit his website for much more of his romance with strangers, and their stories which very often are nothing short of evocative.

Mike Peters



Art of Essex