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Working America: A Sam Comen Photography Exhibition closes

October 20, 2022

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Working America: A Sam Comen Photography Exhibition, will be on display at Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center until Thursday, October 20.

In the exhibition, artist Sam Comen presents a series of portraits of American immigrants and first-generation Americans at work in the small, skilled trades as icons of the American experience. The subjects share stories of economic independence and struggle, belonging and exclusion, faith and fear, and service to both community and family.

A variety of themes are explored in the portraits and accompanying interviews, including the dignity of work, inequity among immigrant nationalities, the political relevance of labor migrants, and the intergenerational legacies of inherited skills. The exhibition also investigates how the subjects learned new skills to adapt to their land of opportunity, as well as the relationship between a nation’s identity and the identities of the individuals who comprise that nation.

This body of work has particular relevance today in a political landscape where anti-immigrant and pro-worker sentiments figure prominently. Comen has revisited some of his portrait subjects more recently, to update their stories in the extraordinary context of the global pandemic and subsequently devastating economic hardship, adding new dimensions and timeliness to the project.

Working America is a meditation on American belonging and American becoming. It poetically acknowledges the lives and contributions working men and women make as a part of our country and our collective experience.

Sam Comen is a documentary portrait photographer from Los Angeles, California. His photographs are collected by the Library of Congress, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and private collectors, and he is regularly commissioned by brands and publications internationally.


From left: Hisham, Set electrician; Young Ae, Tailor; Esthela, Zipper machine operator


October 20, 2022
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Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center
507 South 4th Street Enid, OK 73701