Against a forest of kitchen utensils and stainless steel, his gaze directed upwards and bearing a slight smile, Jesus Sera projects dignity and pride. This portrait is part of Sam Comen’s Working America series, in which he examines the experience of American immigrant workers in Los Angeles. Comen’s work is rooted in twentieth-century portraits of workers, as exemplified by photographers such as August Sander and Irving Penn. He trains his lens on first- and second-generation American dishwashers, carpenters, shoemakers, bakers, and tailors. His empathetic portraits celebrate the subjects’ diligence, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit.
More broadly, Comen’s documentary portrait projects address themes of American identity, immigration, democracy, and social justice.