Americans at Work: The Commute

This week, our Americans at Work photo essay features unique black and white images of daily commutes in Boston, Chicago, and New York City, by photographer Cassandra Zampini: “The city is my studio and the canvas in which I frame the landscape of the American mind. Much of that landscape is centered around how we work today. The buildings we work in, the trains we take, the roads we cross—all were created for how we work and what we work on in the cities. In this collection, the subjects are commuters who are caught between places of work in the early morning or late evening commute. In a world mastered by the digital and surreal, the subjects are photographed in the reality of city, and though their minds may be far away with the help of digital devices, they are documented as existing in that moment in time when the shutter closes. In observing commuters, it is interesting to notice how the social codes we all abide by have normalized in our daily life. For example, how to queue, or the appropriate distance from someone in a packed train.

“Another thing I found in photographing commuters, was the amount of advertisements, signage or symbols that suggest what to do, how to feel about the world, or what we should work hard for. Many of these messages probably go unnoticed now that we’re mostly looking down at our phones (which has its own barrage of messages), but I think subconsciously they guide our emotion during the day. I use these elements as well as shadow, light, contrast, and the geometry I find in the city to give context to my subjects. All the elements are meant not only to document, but to capture how it feels to live in our modern cities with all the emotion, and the humanity behind the everyday.”

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