Louis Quail has finally let his Desk Job series loose …
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.