Edit: The original inspiration for this post has since been removed by its author. Evidently it wasn’t well received. This being the internet, screenshots (which you can find here) will live on in perpetuity, but I haven’t linked to them directly since I haven’t yet found a non-annotated version. I had strong feelings about the original post, but I’d rather you guys decide how to feel on your own. Also, I should make it clear that I am not a human rights lawyer.
My name is Orion Donovan-Smith. I’m a 27-year-old American who has visited several U.S. states and sometimes tweets about the changing economic landscape of this country.
On a recent trip to the Internet, I was inspired by this post (required reading if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you combined a woefully well-intentioned Hungarian, a talented yet underemployed graphic designer, and generations of racially fraught history) to transform a natural photo of myself into 7 different American workers with the help of Apple’s rudimentary image editing software, Preview.
My inspiration also came from my experience not knowing how to do things — like, really basic stuff — which has made me painfully aware of the decline of American handyman culture (remember how your grandparents could fix anything?) and our increasing reliance on skilled tradespeople while, paradoxically, undervaluing the very professions which those of us with liberal arts degrees rely on so dearly.
These captivating images show the remarkable diversity of the American worker and prove that all people deserve our respect and attention. They’re celebrating vital members of our society whose lives are too often hidden from the public eye.
And then I put my face over their faces so you can relate to them more easily.
Trades and me
Watch and clock repairers
If you’re a Millennial® like me, you might think the only clock you need is your Google Glass. But thanks to our human tendency to attach sentimental value to old clocks that have been in the family for a long time, and the fact that wearing a digital G-Shock with a suit is widely considered gauche, watch and clock repairers remain essential members of our society. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were only 2,390 watch repairers in the country in 2014 (yes, I looked this up), so lovers of tiny gears could do worse than to take a dive into this exciting field.
Most Americans eat food, but many of us don’t really understand where it comes from. As it turns out, farmers produce much of the food we love, but farming is hard work. Many U.S. farmers struggle to make a profit, relying on the support of federal subsidies that mostly end up going to Bon Jovi. Some, like the farmer pictured here, are forced to pose for stock photos for supplemental income.
Wood is a versatile material that’s been making a comeback in recent years, as plastic furniture has begun to lose its cachet and a collective identity crisis among young urbanites has driven a revival in rustic, handcrafted café seating. What you might not know, though, is that not all wood is reclaimed from old barns and bowling alleys — some of it comes from trees. And for that, you can thank loggers!
Meat is one of the more widely loved food categories among Americans. But meat has a secret: It’s animals! Thankfully, butchers work hard to chop up and package those animals in such a way that we can buy a boneless, skinless chicken breast without having to think about the fact that it was recently part of a bird that someone had to kill. (Speaking of which, shoutout to slaughterhouse workers.)
There is perhaps no object more quintessentially American than the automobile. (It seems likely that I’m not the first one to write that line, but I didn’t look it up so this isn’t plagiarism.) Without cars, U.S. cities and towns probably would’ve had to be built around public transportation networks that could effectively accommodate urban growth and allow poor people to get to work, and Detroit may never have boomed hard enough to bust as devastatingly as it did. Also, some cars are really cool and fast. And when your personal part of this otherwise bulletproof national transportation system inevitably starts falling apart, you’d better turn to a mechanic! With OPEC predicting that 94% of cars will still run on fossil fuels in 2040, and America’s ever-growing and aging fleet of vehicles sure to demand repairs, mechanics look to enjoy job security for a long time.
The United States’ deeply prudish culture, stemming from the country’s Puritan roots, has long created a market for performers to provide an outlet for Americans’ private fantasies. Pictured here is a male dancer in the role of a physically active laborer, a common and increasingly mythological object of desire as more and more Americans flock to sedentary jobs and only a select few can afford treadmill desks.
Electricity is something nearly all of us take for granted, despite the fact that in many countries, only a minority of the population enjoys access to it. So whenever you flip a light switch, think about the electricians who made that incredible convenience possible. Also, if you’re unemployed and interested in changing that, consider going into this eminently useful and sought-after profession. (Sidebar: Many people don’t know that most electricians, like the one pictured here, prefer to be paid in euros. Although that currency’s volatility makes this a risky choice, we should respect this aspect of traditional electrician culture.)