So after many years trailing around offices across the world in a perverse kind of anti-tourism (travel somewhere exotic and spend your time inside an office that reminds you of a business park in Croydon) I am finally releasing the Desk Job series out into the world, to make its own way .
I haven’t counted up all the countries I have been to: Cambodia, United Arab emirates, Germany, USA Russia, South Africa to name a few; but I have been to enough, certainly, to be a bit of an expert on office life around the world. In the USA they love their cubicles, in Germany its offices off corridors, in Santo Domingo they have modeled their offices on Croydon business parks. Pot plants and Dell computers are ubiquitous wherever you are in the world. You get my drift…
There was method in my madness, a concept (I’m printing a summary of my synopsis below) but I hope there’s humour in these pictures, too and a sense of not being alone. Next time you’re slaving away in your office cubicle with your pot noodle at 8pm, maybe you should have a look at these pictures, laugh or cry, but at least take comfort from the fact that you are truly not alone. A selection of the pictures are to be exhibited in the Sunday Times supplement, Spectrum and the work is to be exhibited at the Format Festival In Derby in March and April. http://www.formatfestival.com/ A taster is below :
And the project as a pdf :
Desk job Synopsis summarized :
Why was I inspired to photograph office workers? Perhaps I felt such a universal occupation merited interest; or I found office life beguiling: the furniture, rituals, dress code – mundane but fascinating – if one knew where to look.
What this project is really about, I soon realized, however, is globalization. Wherever we are, office life is office life: we share the same computers (Dell, IBM) and software (Microsoft); we even work for the same companies.
The technology and information revolutions have continued the processes started in the industrial revolution; unifying and simplifying human procedure. Work in the office, like factory work, is reduced to a series of simple interactions.
Desk Job crosses continents and nations but the treatment shrinks the world by documenting a similar daily struggle. The brash use of flash accentuates the idea that their environment overwhelms these subjects. The repetition of motifs – phones, pot plants, in trays – reinforces uniformity. The employee is defined by the few cubic meters around them.
The Homogeneity enforced by corporate life is concerning. However, we also see resistance: Companies strive for uncluttered office spaces, whereas individuals have an urge to colonise. There is humour inherent in this conflict.
Although this project was started before the recession, it is particularly relevant today. Seeing the worker, oblivious to the machinations of the CEO, heroically navigating their way through the day’s tasks, will hopefully inspire empathy and a recognition of our commonality across culture, continent and corporation.