Since Ricky Gervais’ television show The Office had us all chuckling (and relating to) the mundanity of office life, the corporate work environment has fascinated many with its glum employees in their uniform beige suits. Photographer Louis Quail’s series Desk Job is perfect for nosing around offices, like a captivatingly monotonous version of Apartamento magazine.
“The work here explores office life around the globe, ‘the daily grind’,” explains Louis. “The furniture, rituals, dress code – are mundane but fascinating, if one knows where to look.” Where Brian Finke’s photographs captured employees eating lunch, Louis’ high flash photographs capture these elements, family photographs surrounded by calculators and staplers, an employee engagement article titled, Beyond the fad and into the executive suite or a woman with a worrying amount of red bull on her desk (six cans!). “This work also explores globalisation and our relationships to the corporation,” the photographer tells It’s Nice That. “Companies strive for uncluttered office spaces, individuals colonise.”
Looking at the work now, Louis says it feels different in context: “I think the series is becoming increasingly topical now as we see the forces dysfunctional globalisation playing out in our politics. It might be counter intuitive, but there is a question raised when seen as a series, (showing the unity of a stressed workforce, across continents and countries – USA, Russia, Europe, China, Middle East).” What the photographer means by this is, “what are we working towards and what could we do better? As one placard I saw in recent demos read, “The only thing necessary for evil is for good people to do nothing”. When we see the nations united visually in this series, the message is an antidote to the popularise and divisive politics which seem to be on the rise right now”.
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