Around this time last year, we wrote about a series of photos, taken over nine years, which showed the same people in the same spot, on the same road in New York City, in scarily similar compositions. The series, titled 42nd and Vanderbilt, is the work of Danish photographer Peter Funch’s keen eye. Now, online publication Topic has employed that same keen eye to document the workers of the city in Peter’s signature formulaic style.
Caroline Smith, Topic’s editor – who Peter has known for some time – reached out to ask what kinds of themes he’d be interested in exploring over the coming months. “I started looking into labour, as I’ve always been interested in how we as society utilise systematic classification of different working roles and how embedded this is in appearance and style,” he recalls.
With the theme set, he began to figure out how the story could materialise: “I asked myself the questions; what is labour today, how is it visual, is it uniform and how has it evolved in the time of automatisation and robotisation?” Through this investigation, Peter landed on the idea to create a “study of types of workers in New York as the city is perceived as a centre of both western commerce but also as it has a strong history of labour.”
From here, Peter devised lists of categories and types of workers that he thought would, firstly, be compelling, but that would also be possible to document en masse. Spending a total of five days shooting (and walking over 60 miles), Peter documented clean-up crews, sign holders, couriers, cab drivers, traffic cops, truck drivers, courthouse suites, construction workers, media types, street vendors, health-care workers, delivery guys and musicians; each presented on Topic in a manner which highlights Peter’s compositional skills.
Although obviously a very different process to 42nd and Vanderbilt, the latest series does build upon the former’s concepts. “In this way, I think these photographs do evolve around the idea of collective intelligence without overlapping into the study of surveillance,” Peter concludes, “But it was great to be back in New York, selecting spots and people. The city is something very special.”
This series was originally published on Topic. You can see the full series here.
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