50 Portraits from Occupy Wall Street: After Hours and After Work

Neighborhood? Upper West Side.

Job? I'm retired.

What'd you do before? I worked in theater production. I went from theater production into education. I lived in California for nine years, and I worked in the organic food movement in the 70s. And then I came back here and worked in international educational exchanges. I've done a lot of different things.

What brought you down here today? To lend support to these amazing young people. It's very important, what they're trying to do.

Any issue that strikes you personally? Just the beauty of what they're attempting to achieve, because our society has so much dishonesty, greed and corruption. I applaud what they're doing. Every time I come, I bring food for them.

Do you cook it yourself? Oh no, no. I buy something and I bring it down.

Neighborhood? Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. Lots of cops for neighbors!

Have you been coming down here often, Reverend? Oh yes. Oh. Yes. We canceled all of our shows. This...is it.

How long do you plan on being here for? When do my shows begin again? We will worship. In. The corner office. Up at the top. Of Number One Manhattan Plaza. That whole upper area up there, which has been described to me by radicals, who buy a share, and go up there once a year, the shareholders. My church will be up there. And, uh, Jamie Dimon? He'll be down here. In Liberty Square. Feeding the pigeons.

Do you mind if we get a picture? No, I'd love to. Amen? Amen. But my 18 month-old daughter and wife are waiting for me, so, amen. Amen, children! Praise be! [Pointing at police.] YOU POLICE PEOPLE HAVE A GOOD UNION! DON'T FORGET THAT! [Walks away, shouting.] Thank you! Amen!

Neighborhood? Bushwick/Bed-Stuy. [Zane starts crying.] Hey, what's wrong? [To us.] Sorry, hang on. [Zane stops crying, sees photographer, starts to chatter up a storm of "ba ba ba."] And, sorry. He just started to talk.

What do you do? I work in costume, wardrobe and fashion, for film and television.

Currently employed? I am, I'm employed part-time. I work for a television show, Gossip Girl?

Gossip Girl! Of course! I work part-time while I have him, and that's actually been great, and I feel really supported by my crew there, and everything like that, with having a baby.

Is this your first time down here? It's not, I have a friend down here, who's a Traveler, and an amazing musician. I came down here to drop her off; she just happened to be in town as this was happening. I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I tend to...I think protests are important, but I also think it's important to put your energy towards the thing that you want rather than yelling at everything that you don't want.

But? But I came down and found so much peace, and positivity. My boyfriend and I—his father—came here, and then we came down for the march. We talked it over. We don't want to do things [like that] on a whim because it's the cool thing to do, but we felt very strongly about the reasons we were marching. We both work. We are employed. And we both work very hard, and we're now focusing on starting our own companies outside of the jobs we hold. But we realized that we pay a lot of taxes. When I was single and without children, I was paying 40%, because I jumped a bracket, because I finally started earning something decent. And I'm totally cool with paying taxes. But I think we need to have fair taxes, without all those corporate loopholes. We don't have things like health care, and our school system is failing. I'm thinking of sending [Zane] to private school, which..I don't even know how I'll afford that, because our school system is failing. There's no money in there. We realized it was important, for us, to support social programs.

How's Zane enjoying this? He slept through most of the march. [Laughs.] Sometimes he likes it, and sometimes it's a little much for him.

Neighborhood? Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

That'd explain why I keep seeing you check in on FourSquare at that Peter Pan Donut Shop. I have to maintain my mayorship.

Occupationally, you'd call yourself an... "Author."

You've been coming down here every other day? Yeah.

And you're gonna keep coming down here? Yeah. You know, it's totally selfish, but it makes me feel really good to be a part of this.

Neighborhood? East Village.

You were at the New York Press, but now... I'm a freelance writer.

What brought you down here? I don't know if I'm a protester, but I'm definitely a fellow Traveler.

Any political issues, specifically? Bankers keep talking about compensation like they earn it. And it's clear to everyone that they don't. That it's a scam. And the more that point is hammered home, the better.

Where do you go to school? Pace University.

What are you majoring in? Business.

What do you want to do? I'm still undecided.

Do you plan on returning? Yes.

Did you take out a student loan? Yes.

Do you know what the interest rate on it is? Four percent, I think. I'm not sure.

Neighborhood? Lower East Side.

What do you do? Right now, I'm unemployed. I'm a U.S. Army vet collecting benefits.

What was your assignment? I was a 63-Mike, I was a bradley tank system maintainer. I was stationed in Baumholder, Germany, and I deployed with First Armored Division in 2006/2007 to Ramadi, Iraq.

What brought you down here today? 'Help out my fellow brothers and sisters. I have a lot of friends who are really [invested in] this, in terms of the little guy getting shit on.

How long have you been here for? 25 days.

How long are you staying here for? Until we get kicked out.

How long do you think that'll be? Hopefully forever.

Come on. Not hopefully forever, but hopefully this gets resolved quickly.

And what would you consider a resolution? I don't know all the politics to it, but I'm just doing my own thing, helping people out as I go.

Neighborhood? Upper West Side.

What do you do in the city? I take photos for a living.

Are you a staff photographer, or a freelance? Freelance. New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine.

What was the last thing you shot for The New Yorker? James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.

Neat! So, what brought you down here? Well, I kind of grew up with parents who very essentially progressive. I think I knew that this movement was different than all the other ones that, like: when I was in college, I really thought protests were annoying. And I think this protest is annoying too! However, I think the message here is one that is just undeniably valid to me. And so I just had to come down and check it out. And also, I just felt that it was my civic duty to use the skills that I have to come down here and help out.

Neighborhood? Park Slope, Brooklyn.

What do you do? I'm a freelance web designer.

What brought you down here? The disparity of incomes, and just wanting to see a fair economic system.

Ramona's very excited. [Ramona jumps on us.] She's wagging her tail quite a bit, there. [Smiles, tries to keep dog from snacking on our camera..] She's a big believer in Rousseau, and well-versed in the French Revolution.

Neighborhood? I grew up three blocks away from here. I live in Bed-Stuy, now.

What do you do? I'm a media strategist.

For what company? Abrams Research.

Dan Abrams? Yeah.

Dan Abrams! [Laughs.]

Is this your first time down here? Second, first time being in [the park]. The first time I was down here was two weeks ago, when it was first starting. I wasn't sure what form it was going to take and I wanted to sort of just see what was going on.

And do you plan on coming back? Yes.

Neighborhood? West Orange, New Jersey.

What do you do? I'm in the business of promoting green energy, and I have a website: Save Our Green Planet Dot Org. It's a no-ad, no-distraction site.

What brought you down here specifically? The passion to get people to see that the bottom line is not what the ROI on a profit and loss statement, but promoting a healthier planet and a positive life for our children, and our children's children.

Neighborhood? Originally, Bensonhurst. I [now] live in Brooklyn Heights.

Do you go to college? Pace University, down the block.

What're you majoring in? International marketing.

What do you want to do when you get out of school? Hopefully get a job on Wall Street, but that ain't gonna happen.

What kind of job did you want to get? I don't know, something in the international field of business.

Like currency trading? Yeah, stuff like that. I'm not exactly sure what I want to do with it yet, but ideally. Everyone's dream is to be on Wall Street.

Is today your first day here? Yeah. First day.

How long do you plan on being here? Well, whenever I'm not in class, I'm gonna come on by.

Do you really think you're going to have to prostitute yourself? No, but it's an idea. I'm throwing it out there. I'm brainstorming.

What do you do? I'm a, a uh...a freelance...wandering hobo. [Laughs.]

Did you do anything before that? I used to be in retail sales. Wal-Mart, Spencer Gifts, K-Mart, stuff like that. I was also a freelance minister for Universal Life Church. I still do that.

Do you live in New York? I do now!

Where'd you live before this? Chicago. I got here last Saturday. I love it.

What brought you here? Basically causality. My dad's house got foreclosed on because he wasn't making enough money to pay his taxes. He was retired. And I was temporarily staying with him between jobs. It was a far north Chicago suburb, Zion.

Where's your dad now? With my brother, in Ohio.

How long do you plan on saying here for? Indefinitely. Until I find a job...or somebody drags me kicking and screaming.

Are you going to try to look for a job in New York? I already have begun.

In retail? In anything. I can do more than just retail! I've gotten a couple tips on bouncing for a club. I've got the build. I've got the martial arts.

Where are you from? Romania.

And do you live in the city now? I do.

Where? On the street. I got pickpocketed. They stole all my I.D.

How long have you been here? I've been here [at the park] for almost three weeks.

How long will you be here? Forever? I'm trying to go back to Romania.

Did you have a job coming to the city from Romania? I came for this. They [looks down at shirt] wrote me a letter that said if you want to come and help out, come.

What brought you here? Freedom. Trying to help out.

From around here? I'm not, I live in Hudson, New York, in Columbia County. It's two hours from here.

Do you work up there? I do. I work for a solar energy company, and I also own a landscaping business.

What brought you down here today? I just wanted to stand in solidarity with everyone who's been here for the last couple of weeks. I wanted to come earlier, but I haven't had a chance. This was the first chance I had.

Any particular cause to support? Everyone's been talking about different things, but it's all the same. People are fed up with the fact that lobbyists own politics, and it doesn't matter who you vote for, or what you need. Corporations are the deciding factor. People are tired of it, and have been tired of it for a long time. And I don't know why this [motions behind her] happened now, but it's great. We've been talking about these things individually, but not collectively. And now, all over the country, all these cities. A lot of people don't know why they're frustrated, but they want to come here to talk about it, and tease it out. Why they don't believe in their country, or in democracy. The conversation that's come out of this is incredible. Everyone just came together.

And you're commuting down here! I am. I'm gonna go back tonight, and come back on Friday, and stay here until Monday.

You're gonna stay here, huh? Yeah, but I have some friends in the city, so I have an out.

Do you live in the city? I don't. I'm from Berkeley, California.

Did you come just for this? I didn't, I came from upstate New York, for a photography workshop. I hadn't slept in four days, and I just had this intense...and where else do you go when you're in the city? I could've gone to museums, or a park, or this.

Are you a photographer by trade? I am. Just for me. I shoot portraits and kids, and I do documentary work.

What brought you down here to see this? Just to see it. Because it's history, and I heard about it.

Do you mind if we take your picture? Only if you let me take yours. I hate getting my picture taken!

So do I! It'll be a trade. Okay.

Neighborhood? Westchester. From there originally? No, I'm from Inglewood, in L.A. originally.

Are you commuting here from Westchester every day? No, I'm staying here. It's my third day.

Job? I was auditing classes and working five hours a week as a cook. They only needed me on Sundays.

Why'd you come down here? Because I love my country. We deserve better.

Any specific issue? It's like a fucked up conglomerate—I'm sorry, I don't want to curse—of all these different issues, whether it's corporate greed, or inequality, or wealth distribution. These are all issues tied together because of the capitalist system, or at least how it's run.

How long do you plan on staying for? Until it's over. Or until I get arrested. I've got bail money in my "room."

Neighborhood? Upper West Side.

Where do you go to school? Stuyvesant High School.

What brought you down here? I don't like what we're doing with our money and with our government. I really support beautiful protests like Occupy Wall Street, so I thought I'd come down.

Do you have any ambitions for what you want to do when you get older? I've acted professionally since I was really little. But if I didn't do that, I'd definitely want to work in charity or in women's and children's services around the world.

How many times have you come down here? This is my first time. I haven't been able to come down before. And it definitely will not be my last.

And your parents are cool with this? Yup! As long as I'm back before it's too dark and I don't sleep here.

Cool. We don't want to get you grounded or anything. No, no. It's fine.

Neighborhood? Originally? Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, but now I live in the Bronx. A little section called Norwood, up by the Botanical Gardens.

What do you do? I'm a political activist and work for nonprofit organizations, working with labor unions petitioning for better health care, or just working in call centers. I've done a lot of campaign work, political work, letter writing campaigns.

How long have you been down here for? I've been here on and off since the first Wednesday. I camped out here for about a good two weeks, and then I needed a shower very badly, and then I said, Okay, I live in New York. What am I doing? So I went home, and showered, and relaxed a little before I came back. [Laughs.]

How long do you plan on being here for? As long as it takes. I mean, I have other obligations in life, but this is a top priority for me as well...

Well, what's the finishing line? I get this question a lot. All I want is for people to become more aware.


Neighborhood? Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

What do you do in the city? I work in finance.

What do you do in finance? I'm a trader.

What kind of trading desk do you work on? [Redacted.]

Wow. And you're here? [Grins.] Yeah. I had to check it out, I guess.

Neighborhood? Astoria, Queens.

Job? I work in H.R. for a corporation here in the city.

A banking corporation? No, not a baking corporation...

But one of 'em. One of 'em [laughs].

Is this your first time down here? No, I was here yesterday, and I've been meaning to come but since I've come, I want to come every day, now.

And what brought you down here? I know a lot of people who have been coming who are also professionals, not the individuals the media's been portraying this as. It's hard even for myself at the end of the month to have to pay rent and bills that I need. Like, imagine that. Everyone's in a tough situation.

Where are you from? Washington, D.C.

And you came up here for this? Yes. I got here on Saturday.

Have you been sleeping [at Zuccotti Park]? I have not. I'm working at the Avaaz station during the day.

Staying with friends? In a hotel. The Holiday Inn right around the corner.

And you work for Avaaz? What's your title there? I'm an intern for research and development.

Did you ask for this assignment? No, I didn't! But I feel extremely lucky to be here, and be a part of this. I love being here, and what we're doing here. We're sharing messages of support and encouragement from members all around the world.

Neighborhood? Park Slope, Brooklyn.

What do you do? I'm a graphic designer.

Is this your first time here? Yes.

What brought you down here? Curiosity. Empathy.

Do you think you'll be back here? Probably. Or at least participate in a march, or some other action.

Neighborhood? Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

What do you do? I work at a bar right now, and I just graduated from NYU.

What would you like to do? I'd really like to write. I'd like to work at a theater. I'm also interested in humanitarian work, and museum work, even. I've done a lot of that in the past.

What brought you down here? I've just graduated, and I'm going through the struggle of finding a job. I'm about to come to the end of my grace period on student loans. I feel frustration for myself and my peers. My past two presidents have told me to work hard and study hard at school, and I've been set to compete with my generation for these top schools. I feel like I've done everything right, but there's nothing on the other end. The banks did everything wrong, and they were bailed out.

Hey there, do you have a moment to talk? What affiliation are you? Right-wing? Left-wing?

Neither. We're a small New York newspaper. We have a politically diverse newsroom, I think. [Blank stare.Anarchist, I guess? Okay.

Neighborhood? I'm from Canarsie, Brooklyn, but I've lived in Staten Island for twelve years now.

What do you do in the city? Well, I've got two interviews coming up. Already had one, but nothing came out of it. But this is part of why I'm here: I've taken all the civil tests, I scored a 98.9 on the sanitation exam, but I'm still waiting on them. Basically, they're telling me they don't have room for me toclean up garbage for a living. I've got $40,000 in student loan debts. I have my degree. I've done internships.

What other jobs have you applied for? Production. I've interned at Maury, the Discovery Channel, freelance gigs. I've done production assistant gigs for the last three years. I know it's a competitive field.

Why are you here today? The last six years, I've been depressed. If I'm gonna live my life, I've gotta do something more...especially after what these fucking vampires have done to the world that we live in.

Has it made you feel better being down here? Oh yeah. I feel...human again. It's been great.

Neighborhood? Pelham Parkway, The Bronx.

What do you do? Standup comedy.

What brought you here? Just interested. I really think it's cool what they're doing, and I kind of agree with them on everything, even if it is amorphous. And I wanted to be part of it as well.

Neighborhood? Lower East Side.

What do you do? I work in education, and I also do standup comedy.

What brought you down here? Well, I kind of wasn't as drawn until they got the slogan together. "We are the 99 percent." That kind of drew me in. I'm probably not to the extreme left of some of the people here, but you can't disagree that the inequality is out of control.

Neighborhood? Harlem.

What do you do? I work in IT.

What brought you down here? The movement. I started hearing about it a few days ago, and thought, let me come down here and see what this is. I started talking to people and reading the signs. All the things that you're saying and all the signs that you have are all things I've been thinking for a long time. And I wanted to be a part of it.

Where are you from? Calistoga, California. It's on top of the Napa Valley. But I'm staying in Connecticut while I'm here.

What do you do? I'm a freelance sales rep and landlord, and I have two college-educated, underemployed, and practically couch-surfing children. With their two fine educations.

You were talking about the library inside the park earlier. How is it?We spoke with one of the librarians, Michael. He was lovely and eloquent. I'm very impressed with the whole thing. I donated a book to them.

Which one? Tuesdays With Morrie.

Neighborhood? Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

What do you do? I'm a soda jerk. Do you know what that is?

You work at a... I work for a place called Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain.

The place, with the cool counter! Yes! It's great. It harkens back to the days when a place like that was a neighborhood establishment.

So what brought you down here? [Laughs] Well, do you have a lifetime?

Neighborhood? Park Slope area. Windsor Terrace.

What do you do in the city? I'm a mortician's assistant at a funeral home on 9th Street between 4th and 3rd in Brooklyn.

What brought you down here? I have a lot of friends here. I used to work for an organization called Food Not Bombs. It's a nonprofit feeding-the-homeless organization. And once this happened, my instinct told me to come here and spend my days.

Where're you from? Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Are you commuting out here every day? I come here when I don't have work, I'll stay as long as I can. I'm taking the train up, and staying over, and then I'll take the train back when I have to go back to work.

What's work? I work at a pharmacy. I work overnight.

Neighborhood? Astoria, Queens.

What do you do? I work for an environmental nonprofit called Ioby. I-O-B-Y.

What brought you down here? Well, I'm here not only to check it out, but to support everyone that's here. I think that this is a phenomenally organized movement. I think they're doing really great things. I think the "human megaphone" is genius. It keeps people concise and on-message.

Neighborhood? Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But we're really only living there for a week, this month. We're traveling.

Where are you guys traveling to? Down south.

What do you do? I manage Tim, this guy. He's a musician.

What brought you here? I came here because I want a freer world, and I want everyone to be free, and feel it. And I think that's what this is about.

Where are you from? Austin, Texas.

What do you do? I'm a musician.

What brought you here? Well, the revolution's what brought me here. And the culmination of all these people, and the fight...well, not the fight...[we're moved off the sidewalk by a cop.] Them! [Laughs.] People getting together to protest against greed, that we have no health care, that our education is horrible right now because teachers don't have the freedom to teach what they need to. I used to work in a school. They have to buy the kids' books!

Neighborhood? Bed-Stuy.

What do you do here? I'm an opera singer.

Whereabouts? Here, there, everywhere. Wherever I can get a job. I'm pretty young in the business.

Where'd you graduate from? New England Conservatory, in Boston.

What's your tone? I'm a baritone.

Is this your first night down here? Second night.

Plan on coming back? Yeah. I've been kinda busy because I've been working during the week..

What show are you in? No, just working a job to pay the bills.

For what? Working for a cruise line.

Do you sing for the cruise line? No, I don't sing for the cruise line. I don't know if I could. [Laughs.]

What brought you down here? Just wanted to lend my support. There's a lot of different opinions here, a lot of things I believe in, a lot of things I don't believe in, but I'm here in the city, I have time, I just wanted to show my support.

Neighborhood? Fort Greene.

Where do you go to school? St. Francis, in Brooklyn.

What're you majoring in? Psychology.

What're you thinking about doing when you get out of school? I'm thinking about a range of things, I'm not really sure. Either a firefighter, or a psychologist.

What brought you down here? I've heard so much about it, I wanted to see what was going on. It's part of history.

What do you do here? I do freelance hair and makeup for film and television. Not in the union yet. Three more months, and I'm in the union.

What neighborhood do you live in? Well, I used to live on the Upper East Side. And now I'm here. This is my home. This is my eighth night.

How many more nights are you planning on staying? Honestly, until Obama and our leaders recognize us to the point where they're saying that they're willing to have an open, public discourse now.

So you haven't been back to your apartment in eight days? I have not been back. I have been here. This is my home.

Neighborhood? Financial District, right around here.

What do you do? I'm a doctor in my residency in Manhattan.

Neighborhood? Gramercy.

School? Hunter College.

What're you majoring in? Russian Literature.

What do you want to do when you get out of school? Philosophize about Pushkin and Tolstoy.

Neighborhood? Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Where do you go to school? Poly Prep Country Day School, in Brooklyn.

Applied to any colleges? Where do you want to go? I want to go to Georgetown, that's my number one school. I want to study international relations and political science. I want to work in politics in some way or another, get involved in campaigns before I go to law school.

What kind of law do you want to work in? Corporate Law, actually. It was part of the reason I was so interested to come down here. It's part of that curiosity.

Where're you from? Whippany, New Jersey.

Whippany? Whippany. It's near Morristown.

What do you do? I'm a bike courier.

Neighborhood? Gramercy.

What do you do? I currently work for the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design, but I'm also an ecological designer and have my own company.

Is this your first night down here? No, I've been here pretty consistently after work. Some friends of ours, we set up the water system in the kitchen. A group of us, through an ecological mobile design lab.

How long do you plan on coming here for? Indefinitely. A group of us just started a sustainability working group, so we're developing a redesign of the park.

To make it sustainable for this community? For this community, and after the occupation center clears out, you know, how can we rethink what this park is?

Is there a specific issue that brought you down here? What really kept bringing me back was the general assembly, and really teaching the tools on how to communicate with other people about re-learning behavior, and re-learning the consensus process, and how to listen.

Neighborhood? I'm from Park Slope.

What do you do? Unemployed.

Where'd you go to college? I went to Earlham. I graduated from college, I did a year in Americorps. I have experience; I can't find a job.

Is there a specific cause you're here supporting? We were just talking about student debt.

When did you get here? I've been traveling around the country and reading updates, and I just wanted to be home so bad for this.

What were you doing around the country? Just hanging out. And every city that I was in had an Occupation a couple days after I left, and I just wanted to go home and be here.

Are you planning on coming back? Definitely. We're thinking of sleeping down here soon.

What kind of job are you looking for? Something in education. I want to go to grad school, but I graduated with debt. I don't know if I'll be able to coordinate it.

Neighborhood? Park Slope.

You go to school here? I do. CUNY.

What are you majoring in? Architectural Technology. I want to be an architect, but my school only allows me to do four years, so I'll have to transfer to Pratt before I get my licence.

Is this your first time here? It is.

What brought you down here? Just to see what my fellow classmates are here supporting.

Neighborhood? West Village.

What do you do? I run a social media agency. It's very new. Thatcher Interactive.

What brought you down here? I was really curious to check it out, but I also wanted to be here to lend my body to the numbers to support it.

Is there a specific political issue you're here in support of? Gross economic inequality.

Neighborhood? South Slope, Brooklyn.

What do you do? I'm a teacher.

What do you teach? Theater, at P.S. 506 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

What brought you down here tonight? To see what was happening.

What else? As a teacher, we feel the economic inequality. I'm a first-year teacher, and I only got it from the three—only three, in the entire district, that I knew of—theater teaching jobs that were out there. I got it because I was a student teacher at the school. Also, because I'm awesome. But being a student teacher at the school helped.

Neighborhood: Harlem.

What do you do here? I'm a musician, and I'm an organizer.

And what brought you down here? Many things. I think Wall Street is setting this planet on a one-way path to...something pretty terrible, that's both ecological and economic. And it's unprecedented. There's never been anything like this in the world economy.

Neighborhood? Born and raised, Upper West Side.

What do you do? I'm a bit of a social worker. I do homeless outreach for a nonprofit, the Center for Urban Community Services.

What brought you down here? It's just a wonderful place. This is a tremendous receptacle for human capital, and it's being wasted by the economy, and people who have put the economy in [this] place.

Is this your first time down here? Third time, first for the general assembly outside of a rally.

Where are you from? Cincinnati, Ohio.

You're here for this? I am. We started an Occupy Cincinnati, and there were about only thirty people there. I wanted to come to the epicenter of the cause. Ours didn't hold a candle to this.

How many nights have you been down here? This is my third night here.

And you're staying inside the park? I am. I have everything I own and everything I need in this bag.

Do you go to school? I do, I go to University of Cincinnati.

What are you majoring in? I'm a double-major in sociology and sexuality studies.

What do you want to do when you get out of school? I can't really say. I really have no idea what I'm going to do.

WE WERE HOPING FOR PEOPLE WITH JOBS. We weren’t targeting them, or a specific “look” for the not-average protester. It wasn’t a bias, either. Before The Observer and our trusty photographer started out at Zuccotti Park around 5PM last night, we didn’t have a target person in mind to look for so much as a target mosaic. We wanted to continue to help develop a de facto census of who’s going down to Occupy Wall Street.

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But we had to hope for people with jobs. Not so much out of political interest, or vested sentiment in what’s been happening in Zuccotti Park, but because it would otherwise be a long, torturous five hours. Five hours, of trying to interview people and ending up on the receiving end of cliched, dreadlocked, meandering bongo drummers’ varying Phish-inflected political manifestos, who have been so reliably portrayed in much of the media recently as the vast majority of those down there.

That would be a long, awful five hours. That is not a plum assignment.

What we found instead was the opposite. Were those people there? Surely. But they were in far lesser numbers than many have been led to believe. And yes, we spoke with protest celebrities, and people who would give cause to the import of cliche.

Yet, more often than not, we found people from all walks: a military veteran, a New Yorker photographer, a media consultant, someone who works on Gossip Girl, someone who’s actually been profiled by the Observer, an architect, a doctor, an aspiring corporate lawyer, a guy who works on a trading desk, and more than a few small business owners, among them. And we didn’t have to look hard: Zuccotti Park gets particularly interesting at night, where people who most definitely have the same obligations that many of us do are choosing to spend their after-work hours there.

Not all of them felt strongly about any particular issue. Most of them didn’t want capitalism to go away. One of them was even patently annoyed at the protest he was attending.

But he was still there. That point, so obvious at face-value, will eventually emerge as crucial to a nuanced understanding of this thing, which it’s impossible not to walk away with after talking to fifty of these people for five hours: strangers making themselves a part of something. If there’s one definitive, common thread we observed, it’s that everyone was glad to be brought together with strangers they’d otherwise never meet, even if it is by a general malaise. It was, cynicism aside, rather incredible to watch. Ideally, the following fifty people will help illuminate Occupy Wall Street’s emerging narrative, or at least the one we found: frustrated strangers, being exceptionally kind to one another.

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek

(All photos by Marielle Solan)

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