Focus on the Factory

Dakota Santiago ’16 decided to work for The Gothic Times, the University’s student paper, because NJCU didn’t have a photojournalism course. “So I made do,” he says with a little laugh. “I took every photography course I could in the Fine Arts Department and supplemented the journalism side with the newspaper.” It wasn’t long before the soft-spoken Santiago’s work began to speak for itself. He soon became the paper’s photo editor and, in his senior year, he took his art to the next level, beginning a photo series as an independent study.

Titled “Working Class New York,” the series documents the often-forgotten factory workers in the industrial region between Brooklyn and Queens and depicts a poignant and rough-edged slice of life.

The subject matter of this series has special meaning for Santiago. “My family has always been working in manual labor. My father was a delivery driver for the New York Daily News. My uncle was a roll-off truck driver for a lot of sanitation companies. And I followed in my father’s footsteps; for five years I worked at the printing plant at the News to pay for college,” he says. “I noticed there wasn’t much coverage devoted to that sector of society and felt that a face needed to be put on the people who work in these jobs day in and day out. We all see the results of their work, the products they make, but most of us don’t notice the workers.”

Santiago continued to work on “Working Class New York” after he graduated and the series continues to garner rave reviews. In fact, it earned Santiago a spot in the Eddie Adams Workshop. Named after the famed war correspondent, the workshop is an intense four-day event led by many of the best photojournalists and photo editors in the country. He was one of only 100 students from around the world invited to attend.

“It was amazing,” he says. “I got to refine my craft. And I met with editors from Time Magazine, The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and many others. It was a great opportunity to make connections.”

Since the workshop, Santiago’s photos have attracted notice from The Museum of the City of New York. He was also accepted into the Fourth Annual New York Times Lens Blog Portfolio Review; and has been published by Time Magazine’s Lightbox, Jersey Journal, and the Newark Star Ledger.

All the while Santiago continues to add new images to the “Working Class New York” series. Although NJCU didn’t have the photo-journalism major Santiago wanted, Santiago is quick to credit his recent success to his professors. “Deborah Jack, Barron Rachman, Mauro Altamura, and the photo technician, Eddie Burns from the Photography Department all helped and guided me throughout my time at NJCU,” he says. “If it wasn’t for them, I would most definitely not be where I am today.”