Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
October 16, 2014

Wage Slaves and Fatal Naps

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What’s that expression: life follows art? If you’re not familiar with Brian Ulrich ‘s Copia project , he spent 10 years documenting consumer culture and the post 9/11 fallout, mostly notably at the retail brick-and-mortal level, through to The Great Recession. If this photo was taken in Austin in 2007, it’s the harbinger of a real-life event that occurred just two few weeks ago.

You might have seen the story about the 32-year-old woman named Maria Fernandes. You can read it here.  The gist is that she was working three jobs, at three different Dunkin’ Donuts stores in New Jersey. Being exhausted all the time, she had a habit of grabbing naps in her car, often leaving the motor running. That is, until an overturned gas can she kept on hand caused her car to fill up with poisonous fumes.

There are many dramatic events and concerns that fill the visual news window every day. The despair of the low wage hourly worker isn’t the first one that comes to mind. If Mr. Ulrich’s photo wasn’t already frightfully ironic, it’s relationship to Ms. Fernandes is heartbreaking, down to he fact she was still in her uniform.  The field of clocks clustered above this woman’s head is like a cartoon nightmare. The couch, too, is brilliant, still a further commodification of the Oriental carpet with the thought that the price tag could have made her faint.

So R.I.P., Maria Fernandes … and is that a punching bag? Looking back in the larger sense, what Brian captured was the scene of the crime.

(photo: “Sleeper Thrift”: Brian Ulrich)

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