Who is Occupy Wall Street? “Dirty hippies” and “trendy grunge” addicts, according to some commenters on this Slate slideshow. This morning’s Christian Science Monitor asks if the movement is becoming “a magnet for miscreants and malingerers with too much free time.”
In the early days of the protests, photographer Jonathan Nesteruk wanted to answer this question for himself. So he went down to Zuccotti Park and spent a few days simply taking portraits of the people there—and talking to them.
After interviewing about 80 people, he says what surprised him most was how “reasonable” most people seemed and how varied their backgrounds were. Sure, there were unemployed plaid-lovers and mask-wearing-teens, but also businessmen and former professors.
There haven’t been many studies on the makeup of the Occupiers yet. One, by the Baruch College School of Public Affairs, found that at least half the people drawn to the protests are employed. However, the findings of that study were based on a survey of visitors to occupywallst.org—and not solely on the sign-wavers in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere.
This is a big part of why photo projects like Nesteruk’s are so valuable. You’ll find more portraits and interviews on his Tumblr blog. Also worth checking out: August Bradley’s 99 Faces of Occupy Wall St.