The Municipal Life of Philadelphia

This photo essay features images of workers in Philadelphia's Municipal Offices, made by photographer Ryan Collerd. Here’s what’s behind the essay, in Ryan’s words:

When this project was first described to me as a look into the modern American office I thought of Philadelphia’s municipal offices because of the challenges American municipalities face in the 21st century. I also considered the history of these spaces and their diversity of design, aesthetics and how that affects the city employee. Philadelphia City Hall appears almost as a place of worship rather than a government building. Thinking of City Hall as a workspace made me consider the vast differences between all of the City’s municipal offices—what is a typical city employee's office like in such a building?

While photographing in these spaces what stuck out most visually was the physical evidence of decades past, not only in the space's aesthetics and architecture but in the office equipment itself. An employee can find themselves sitting at mid century desk working on a 21st century computer while referencing a ledger book from 1887. Philadelphia City Hall is like a time capsule no one is quite ready to put the lid on. Over time, as Philadelphia grew, more municipal offices have been built to accommodate the needs of the city. One of these offices—Philadelphia's Municipal Services Building—is a more modern office building, something office workers of today would be more familiar with.

The city employees that inhabit these diverse spaces were the most surprising aspect of this project. Despite having to deal with the public in often stressful situations, most everyone I came in contact with had a positive outlook on their job and an obvious sense of pride in being a city employee. Many of them had also been there for years, holding numerous positions—a testament to the relative security and stability of a city job in uncertain times.

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