BILLABLE HOURS by Robin Dahlberg is a strenuous exercise in subtlety in the best artistic and intellectual sense. Photographed in the unlikely but refreshing setting of a white shoe law office, the book, prima facie (at first glance) appears to be a straightforward depiction of rather banal goings on, the day to day business of billable hours; the primary revenue source of any legal firm by which law professionals charge clients for their services, right down to the minute. However, a strong argument can be made ad litem (for the case) that this book is one of timeless themes classically presented in the form of good, old-fashioned, strong photography.
The fluid, exciting dynamics of emotion, gender, sexuality and gesture mix freely with the humdrum of hand shakes, neckties and waxy potted plants. In one photo, the lower halves of a skirted, bare legged woman and a pinstripe panted man face each other, the pointed taupe toe of her high heeled shoe suggestively touching the tip of his freshly shined black oxford. In another, a mess of mismatched women’s shoes of various styles and colors are strewn haphazardly in an opened bottom desk drawer, a used hairbrush perched atop this precarious pile. These are surprisingly charged scenes of both flirtation and humor, where the focus of Dahlberg’s eye allows the viewer to see things that most likely would normally be missed.
This theme is the leitmotif of the book, the wonder of the hidden, right out there in the open. On one page, an ordinary scene of a man sitting for lunch in a conference room about to bite into a sandwich. Three pages later, a stunningly beautiful woman gazes vixen like into the camera lens while three indistinct, similarly blue shirted, dark trousered men stand behind her, their heads decapitated by the frame, like a male version of an ancient Greek statue of the Three Graces, Aphrodite in the foreground. The gestures here are classical and their effect a striking vis major (major force) that reinforces the female/male dialectic that courses through the work.
Throughout the book we see many pieces of saccharine, corporate art hanging on the office walls. They stand out in sharp contrast to the real work of art here and its genuine depth, that is, BILLABLE HOURS itself. There are many layers available to be pulled back, examined and explored in this rich work that hides beneath its seemingly sedate veneer of a workplace, like a blood red high heel covered by the long cuff of a plain navy pantsuit. With this photobook, res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself.) One need only look carefully in order to listen.