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Sam Comen

The Longest Shift

May 14 - August 21, 2022

In December 2020, as COVID-19 infections and deaths skyrocketed in Los Angeles County, everyday workers designated “essential” continued working under dire conditions, exacerbating existing societal and economic inequities. The Longest Shift explores these disparities through photographs, motion portraits, and interviews of these workers — most of them Black and Latinx — throughout Los Angeles County. In The Longest Shift, artist Sam Comen celebrates his subjects and their contributions during the pandemic while allowing the viewer to question the overall conditions of the workers in our society and the value of their labor.

This fascination towards representing the lives of everyday people is rooted in Comen's documentary photography practice. Comen argues the unwavering reverence that society places on opulence, fame, and celebrity is slanted — lacking the entire breadth of the human experience, namely that of the working class. The all-encompassing lens that Comen brings to The Longest Shift focuses on themes of American identity, community, and social justice in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with the purpose of building empathy and justice.

Sam Comen is a Los Angeles based artist who received his Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Northwestern University in 2002. Comen has worked as a magazine photographer for 15 years, shooting for publications that include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and Esquire. His work has been recognized by Communication Arts, American Photography, Photo District News, The Center for Documentary Studies, and the Sante Fe Center for Photography.

Currently, Comen has three exhibitions on tour which include: Working America: portraits of immigrant and 1st generation Americans at work; The Newest Americans: portraits of U.S. citizens before and after the taking the oath of citizenship; and The Longest Shift at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH). Sam Comen has been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and his work is held in permanent collections at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Library of Congress.

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