Where Are
They Now?

From the Great Depression to the Gig Economy

Gig #1, (2021)

Oil and Toner Transfers on 25 Wood Panels, 45″x60″

WATN #1 (Detail) Oil & Toner Transfer on Panel

Where Are They Now: Gig #1, (2021)

Oil and Toner Transfers on 25 Wood Panels, 45″x60″

The Where Are They Now project was inspired by news coverage of the Great Recession of ’08, where it was often qualified as the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Yet no report related the two events beyond a superficial economic analysis. The Investor class gambled, and lost; the poor, working poor, and middle class suffered the consequences. I kept thinking, sure, there are some similarities and yet the Gig Economy is vastly different. Plus famously there were no bailouts of the aforementioned poor or working poor after the ’08 crash. What are the differences? Would solutions like the New Deal work in our today’s economy?

More than 10 years have passed since ’08 and yet my questions persist. Though we recovered from the Great Recession, the problems illuminated by the crisis still affect the working poor even in “good” economic times. And we seem to have an economic crisis every 10 years or so, the most recent brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

So I simply asked, where would individuals most impacted by the Great Depression be in the Gig Economy? Where does the working poor work? Where does the working poor eat? And who, if anyone, is the modern equivalent of the itinerant woker, coloquially known as the Hobo?

I mined images from the Great Depression and began to imagine the answers. The first image I came upon was Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother. And a Walmart Jersey fit almost too perfectly, both visually and conceptially. Walmart is infamous for underpaying its employees and cutting hours so they don’t qualify for Healthcare, leading to the most employees on Medicaid and SNAP benefits. And these employees turn around and spend their SNAP benefits at Walmart, resulting in a huge windfall, dumping our tax dollars right into the Walton’s pockets.