Everyone Was Making Money
Eric Percher’s Photographs of Deadening
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
From 1999 to 2006, Eric Percher worked in finance, meaning he inhabited cubicles within offices within buildings within the grid of New York City. Everybody was making money. They didn't mind working all hours. Percher ran into a woman named Julia one night in 2007. The office lights went off at 10:00 p.m., but she was new and didn't know how to turn them back on, so she just kept working in the dark. He took her picture.
Percher's series of photographs, begun in 2006 and completed last year, is called Work. All the titles are the same: first name and floor number (for instance, Julia on 16). The effect is both archival and a little biblical: Each character can be located in this highly organized drama. There are no group portraits. Each worker is alone against the backdrop of the hive, which probably explains why most of the images were shot at night, after hours. (After seven years of working in the towers, Percher had broad access through friends and colleagues.)
Some of the images zoom in on the individual or on close scenes. More often the photographs zoom out, locating individuals (like John on 14, seen from a neighboring tower) deep within the boxes-within-boxes setting of midtown New York architecture and business.
The strength of the series is its conflicted heart. On the one hand, this crisply captured environment could not be more stifling. Percher left finance for photography right around when he started shooting this series, and his photographs (some overtly ominous) reflect his disillusion with this life. On the other hand, it's cozy, secure, reassuring—especially its promise of regularity, which has been undone since these photographs were taken. Maybe at one point, Work looked more like a nightmare than a dream; I'm not sure that's still true.