Artist's Statement

Sam Comen

Walking and driving every day in my native Los Angeles, I look around and see an economically thriving microcosm of multi-racial immigrant America. This is in stark contrast to the menacing vision of immigration in the U.S. coming from the White House. Trump, generous with his praise of working class Americans, is quick to denigrate immigrants who are also of the working class, but happen to be, by and large, non-whites. This project is a photographic response to that dichotomy. Immigrants thrive in this country with a variety of skills, but often, given their backstories of marginalization and the demands of survival in a modern society, they gravitate towards the “small trades” – many of them taking on the same jobs that Eugène Atget, August Sander, and Irving Penn documented in their seminal bodies of work. Through diligence, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit these new Americans seek a chance to better their lives and the lives of their children through the universally acknowledged mandate of rolling up their sleeves and going to work. In homage to Atget’s Parisian portraits, Sander’s “People of the 20th Century” and Penn’s daylight studio work, I felt pulled to document some of the workers who’s grace and grit are on display every day in Los Angeles. These small trades men and women, all of whom generously agreed to pause their work and be my subjects, are earning their paths forward through their labor and economic contribution. None are asking for a free ride. SPECIFICATIONS: Photographed on 35mm DSLR; exhibited as archival pigment prints sized 30x42 inches.