(In)dispensable: Who is essential in America?: The Photographs of Maranie Rae Staab

May 8, 2020 to May 25, 2020

Cristena, 35 // Raleigh, NC

ArtRage Gallery is pleased to announce our first ever “virtual” exhibition. (In)dispensable: Who is essential in America?: The Photographs of Maranie Rae Staab.


Maranie Rae Staab is an award-winning photographer and recent graduate of Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. This past fall we shared her work at ArtRage in the exhibition “RECREATING HOME: Photographs of the Refugee Experience.” Today Maranie is on the road as an independent journalist and storyteller, traveling across the US to find out “In light of the coronavirus pandemic, who is considered “essential” in America?”

Dwight, 52 // Dunn, NC

The photographs in this exhibition share her travels from the first part of her journey.   On May 2, 2020 she reached Birmingham, Alabama. She plans to continue her journey across America.

I began this trip with a seemingly simple question, but the interactions and conversations I’ve had have spurred others about inequality, marginalization, immigration, racism, politics and power. 

In many ways, it is a privilege to stay home. In the some 1680 miles driven so far I’ve seen firsthand that those often least appreciated and respected and those working the longest hours for the lowest wages are now the stitching that holds our nation together.

To me, this effort is as much an ethnographic study as it is a visual project. I think of Dorothea Lange who used images and words together, not just to record, but also to discover and explore ideas.

Consider these portraits and captions my field notes, the beginning of something that is still taking shape. The faces are of those who I’ve had the privilege to spend time with and the captions their words. 

My biggest concern about this project was if and/or how I could possibly do it without potentially harming myself or others. I spent several weeks going back and forth, doing research and talking to professionals both about the health concerns and the project itself. I decided to pursue it because I felt I was equipped to do it as safely as is possible and because I believe in the importance of telling these stories.

I’ve been wearing an N95 mask, standing at least 6 feet from everyone I am interviewing and social distancing in all other circumstances. I’ve slept in my car many nights and when I’ve opted for other lodging it’s been in a single room. And I have of course been sanitizing myself, my gear, my car and my clothing as often as is possible. 

I recognize that there is still always a level of risk, but as a journalist it’s also important to be documenting and to be telling stories.

This is an initial dispatch from an ongoing inquiry; I’ve about two weeks left on the road and would value your thoughts and, should you be an essential worker and want to connect, please reach out. 


Throughout the country states are using highway signs to encourage social distancing, handwashing and other precautionary measures in an effort to cut down on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.