The black-and-white photos are stark and sterile, but the corporate world of a bygone era shines through as American executives pose in their 1970s offices. There are large and clunky early computers, machines given pride of place in corporate America as the technology age geared up. There are nods to old-world glamor, businessmen and women sharply dressed in professional attire with a flair so often absent now.
There are also examples of gender and racial disparity, issues still relevant today but arguably more visible four decades ago.
The view into 1970s corporate life was captured by photographer Susan Ressler, who documented the people and décor of offices and lobbies in 1970s Los Angeles and other urban US locations. Her photos will go on exhibit on Friday through next month at Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, and they were published in a new book earlier this year titled Executive Order.
Renowned photographer Susan Ressler documented life inside American offices in the 1970s in Los Angeles and other large urban areas - where nascent computer technology was beginning to exercise more and more influence
Ressler walked into buildings she simply found interesting from the outside and asked office workers, such as the woman pictured, to pose for her
Remarking on the black female receptionist looking at a white male executive in this photo, Ressler told The New York Times earlier this year: ‘She’s in that box, and he can’t see the way she’s looking at him ... Back then, that’s just the way it was’
The photos are featured in a new exhibition beginning Friday at the Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, California - and were published in April in book Executive Order: Images of 1970s Corporate America
Author Mark Rice, in his contextual essay in the book, wrote that Ressler’s images ‘provide a glimpse inside a rising economic order as they reveal the reception rooms and inner sancta of premier corporate office spaces.
‘They were made at a pivotal point both in the post-industrial shifts of the American economy and in American photography, when a younger generation of photographers grappled with questions of aesthetics and epistemologies.
‘By bringing these photos to audiences now, Ressler provides viewers new ways of understanding the worlds of photography and American corporate culture as they intersected in her lens during the decade that brought us “modern life.”’
Ressler took the photographs for the Los Angeles Documentary Project, simply walking into buildings she found interesting, photographing the interiors and asking office workers to pose for her.
‘I chose offices to photograph based on how they looked; they had to strike me in a certain way,’ she told The New York Times earlier this year. ‘When I would go into these spaces they were often so chilling and I never felt very comfortable in them.’
The black-and-white images are stark yet striking; author Mark Rice writes in an essay for the book: 'They were made at a pivotal point both in the post-industrial shifts of the American economy and in American photography,