If you don’t live in New York City, there’s a good chance you have a washer and dryer in your house. Laundry isn’t the arduous chore it becomes for most New Yorkers. Many of us in New York City routinely schlep heavy bags of laundry for a few blocks (or more) to wash their clothes at a laundromat. There they pay upwards of $1.50 per load or they drop-off where the cost of laundry service is based on the amount your dirty clothes weigh. With an interest in people and places, photographer Erica McDonald began photographing Brooklyn residents as trekked to/from their local laundromat. Her series, “Laundry Sherpas” required a lot of patience to create.
McDonald began by locating scenes where she’d sit and wait for her subjects to walk through the scene. When she’d spot a subject carrying a laundry bag, she’d approach them, explain her idea, ask for permission, and began a creative conversation with the subject.
“I am interested in the idea of blurring the boundaries between actual and perceived, real and unreal, in finding objects in their places and people in the environment and collaborating with them so they fulfill my vision of this alternate reality. I explain my idea to the people who are in the photos – more or less, depending on the person, their language – my perception that they are on a journey, possibly one which will never end, in search of the river so they can unburden themselves and restore things (the laundry’s cleanliness, their fatigue, their state of mind/being) in this act/communion with nature.”
In addition to portraits, McDonald photographed laundry-related details like spilled detergent and clothing left behind. After spending a year on “Laundry Sherpas, the series is complete and McDonald hopes to make it into a book. “I gave away my washing machine the same week I finished the series, so now I carry it to the laundromat,” McDonald said. “I dream of having a clothesline.”
McDonald also runs the DEVELOP Tube Photography Video Channel, an educational photo resource.