Long bicycle rides on empty county roads are wonderful for engaging the mind. This morning, as I rode past Keyshore Aquafarms, the home of Clam Boogie I started thinking about the documentary photo work I was doing centered on the Clam Boogie and its crew. I can trace the work back to the mid 1990’s when I started photographing the net fishermen and the community’s transition to clam farming as net fishing was outlawed. Posting all these claming photos for the last couple of weeks it occurred to me that I was not familiar with any sustained photo documentary work being done about ‘working’ in this country. I may very well be missing some important stuff out there, but all I can come up with is Sebastião Salgado’s heroic work, and that does not deal with the American worker. Are there any W. Eugene Smith’s out there today doing anything even as remotely powerful as his Country Doctor? I guess it shows that I grew up on Smith and David Douglas Duncan. Seriously, we talk a lot about work ethic, and how we value work in this country, but our culture, popular or otherwise seems to be paying very little attention to work and workers. Labor sections in newspapers disappeared decades ago,
Robert Adams, in his book Beauty In Photography quotes Dorothea Lang saying “Oh, I can think of things we don’t photograph,” ….”things we could photograph, and we never touch them.” Of course she and her fellow WPA photographers did photograph work, and she certainly was not thinking about that when she made this statement. However, I think today work and working should perhaps be included in the category of things we don’t photograph, and my question is, why?