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April 26, 2010

Anthony Suau: Death Of A Good Job

This is the second post in a series: “Anthony Suau on The Great Recession.”

Looking at that big dominant face gazing down onto the showroom floor, it’s apparent that Americans aren’t on the same page as the car companies and their advertising strategies. This looks like Big Brother: an authoritarian regime controlling the people who stand there quietly and take it in. Ford displays this projected head at auto shows across the country; he showed up in New York a couple of weeks ago.

The word, LINCOLN, to the right and left, reminds me of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, with Big Brother in the center of the room instead of the president’s statue. Lincoln freed the slaves and saved the Union. Of course, the car is named in the hero’s honor.

Outside the hall, Chrysler workers picket the auto show with mock coffins painted with “DEATH OF A GOOD JOB.” They were laid off after the Fiat merger that attempts to save Chrysler, but it did not save their jobs.

These men are not directly protesting their own deaths or their livelihoods, but that of the “good job,” and the industry itself. Union workers built America, and now hold a haunting, nostalgic vigil in memory of the value of labor and the nature of property. People are mourning.

In Detroit, you don’t have to look far to see the results. The physical landscape lies in ruins, chewed up. The Lafayette Building was built to stand for the ages in the downtown of what was America’s fourth largest city. You could say now that’s Bernie Madoff’s, or Lehmann Brothers’, or Goldman Sachs’ bite mark, take your pick. It was structurally salvageable, it’s easy to imagine someone waving hello from a window that still has its shade. There was an effort to save this building, and the many other ghosts of our industrial past, but those efforts failed.

In his self-portrait reflected in the empty storefront, Anthony reports that on a previous visit a year ago, this actually looked like an uncharacteristically renovated bank that was due to reopen. But on subsequent trips, he saw that it remained empty and shuttered. Looking at himself through the faltering economy, there is passionate photography with conscience here. But there is also dark humor. Because, what’s the alternative?

–Alan Chin and Michael Shaw

PHOTOGRAPHS by ANTHONY SUAU / facingchange.org

NEXT: Sex And Conformity

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