April 18, 2012 Author: Thijs Heslenfeld
“Is a man’s identity based on his work, or is his work based on his identity?”
This is the fundamental question that Thijs Heslenfeld asked himself during the completion of his photographic project Men At Work. For Men At Work, Heslenfeld traveled extensively across the globe, visiting sixty different countries. In each place, he photographed local men in their various work environments. The result is a diverse catalogue of the ‘working man’, in many shapes and sizes. Heslenfeld recalls often being asked whether he had permission to take the photographs, as if his subjects should be ashamed of their own existence. Nevertheless, most men look very proud and at ease in their surroundings.
The question that Heslenfeld poses might be a difficult one to answer, as the reasons for which men do the work they do depends on a variety of factors, such as their cultural and financial circumstance. Therefore, perhaps this issue shouldn’t be the main point of focus. Fact is that Heslenfeld’s photographs – which are accompanied by small informative texts introducing the different individuals – simply provide an interesting insight into the diverse lives of people around the world. No women are included in Men At Work. According to Heslenfeld, this was not a rigid decision, but more of a self-evident story that wrote itself. He felt that the dynamics between subject and camera change entirely when a female comes into the picture, due to the fact that women simply live their lives differently. This, of course, is debatable.
Reviewed by Sofia Caycedo.