Photo-Ethnographic Short Essay

This photograph was taken by Anthony (AH), a 30 years old man from “Downtown Los Angeles, Hill and Washington, near the Courthouse.” We met at the Home Depot parking lot on Sunset, where he was looking for construction work as a day laborer. I told him I had a photo assignment for a class on photo-ethnography, and asked if he would be willing to take my picture and sign it. Anthony could not care less about the politics of photography I was trying to sardonically remark on, or my intention to assert myself as the subject of the work in an attempt to discuss agency. Instead, he wanted to know the pay. Anthony asked for $60, completely blowing my attempt to achieve some semblance of an hourly rate. He told me his signature is worth something and that has nothing to do with hourly wages. I stood my ground, mostly out of concern for my own depleted bank account balance. Our quick negotiation landed at $30 and we quickly headed to the ATM across the street to withdraw the cash. I gave him the money. Unceremoniously, and with little consideration to framing, light, or composition, he took my picture. We walked together back over Sunset to the parking lot of the Home Depot while we briefly discussed his professional specialization, dry-wall installation.