Erik Hagen is an artist who explores the physical and psychological landscapes of low-wage service workers through personal documentary, staged photographs, and narrative text. Drawing on his previous and current experiences as a retail worker and...
Focus:Fine Art, Documentary, Photography, Art
Skills:Image Archiving, Digital Printing, Lighting Tech, Photo Assisting, Color Correction, Film Scanning, Photo Editing, Black & White Printing, Color Printing, Retouching, Film Processing, Film Photography
Team Member explores my experience working in retail customer service for a megacorporation, and is comprised of both photography and text. Together, the photographs and vignettes examine the psychological effects of being trapped between the dictums of corporate dogma and the raw desire of the customer, and the subsequent loss of identity. The photographs are a mixture of staged portraits and still lives, while the texts—a mixture of real-life interactions, inner monologue, and fantasy—present the mental and emotional spaces whose nuances I wasn’t able to capture visually.
As someone who has held a wide variety of jobs, I’ve become attuned to the ways work can wire our brains to specific behavior and mannerisms. Formerly I drove a taxi, and for years after I would still watch people alongside the road to see if they were flagging me down. Working in customer service has provided a counterpoint to the way we are already wired, as consumers, to interact with service-industry workers. It’s almost as if our society-mandated role as capital-c Customers renders us unable to see the people that make these transactions possible. Large companies are glossy, their images are highly calculated and curated, and we’ve been told their employees should fit this image too. I want Team Member to make people reconsider this, and the loss of individual identity that we willingly partake in.