James Stephenson: Unintended Vistas
When you consider what it’s like to work in an office these days, the vision of a Google or Facebook setting, with ping pong tables and fully stocked kitchens populated by herds of happy head-phoned 20-somethings working late into the night, might come to mind. But the reality of where many people spend the majority of their waking hours is actually pretty grim. Photographer James Stephenson spent time as an on-the-road consultant, and found himself in the Unintented Vistas of mind numbing office settings (these photos represent an array of clients), which makes us consider: “Is everything that’s visually stimulating today only on the computer screen? Do our environments matter anymore?”
James was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in nearby Columbia. He received a B.A. in Computer Science from Gettysburg College and an M.S. in Computer Science from John’s Hopkins University. James’ memories of his grandparents’ photography careers inspired him to pick up a camera. As a kid, he watched them take pictures and exhibit in shows. Only later as an adult did he aspire to follow in their footsteps. James currently lives in Miami Beach with his family.
As a traveling consultant, I visited offices in cities across the country. My trips were usually short but repetitive, giving me the chance to experience an office environment as a participant observer. I was not in any one place long enough to have the surroundings feel familiar, so the exploration of space stayed fresh.
As a photographer, I began to record the results of my travels past unintended vistas: walled-in cubicles, stress relief rituals, and spirit-crushing loneliness set to the drone of a building’s air conditioner. The stimulation in these environments came via computer screens, stared at by their inhabitants day-in and day-out. Many of these locations had been reduced to occasional meeting points for remote, globalized workforces, causing me to question the present and future role of the physical office.
Taking these photographs gave me the chance to explore my feelings within the contemporary workplace whose emptiness reflected our increased detachment from the physical world, silently losing the connection with the people and places that enrich and enliven us.
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