The Image: Steven Ahlgren, "Commercial Bank"

© Steven Ahlgren. Commercial Bank, 1992

In the early 1990s I began work on what was to become a large project photographing in corporate offices. I came to the subject as a graduate student in photography living in Connecticut, after having spent the previous five years working in several banks in Minnesota and Florida. I wanted to see if I could go back into that world and make interesting pictures, hopefully in the spirit of one of my favorite paintings – Edward Hopper's Office at Night.

This particular photograph was made within a bank in New Haven, Connecticut. I was wandering the hallways and came across this little room with the copier. At first I was mainly taken in by the light and in particular the diagonal shaft of it raking across the wall. I had just switched cameras from a 35mm Leica to a 6x9 Fuji, and I knew the larger color negative would be able to wonderfully describe what I was seeing. When I first entered the room a man and a woman had been standing around the photocopier talking, but then the woman left and only the young man remained. I had just a few seconds to make two photographs of him by himself, lost in his thoughts, waiting for the copies to emerge.

I knew immediately that this picture was important to me, and after almost 20 years it has continued to be one of my favorites. For me at least it evocatively alludes to a time when such tasks were my daily lot, and during moments like those described in the photo I began to question what I really wanted to do with my life. It is the closest I have ever come to making a self-portrait.

Steven Ahlgren