American dinnertime obviously isn’t always the idyllic, cheery scene we see in movies. Between work, homework and social plans, it can be hard to find time to cook a meal, let alone eat around the same table as your family or roommates.
From 2013 to 2015, artist Lois Bielefeld traveled the nation taking photos of Americans during their typical weeknight meal. This week, those fascinating photos are on display at the International Center of Photography in New York City.
Since Bielefeld is based in Milwaukee, she shot most of her photos around the Midwest, she told HuffPost. She’d ask her subjects in advance to just prepare food and go about their evening routines as usual, arriving at their homes just before dinnertime to snap both candid photos and portraits, with subjects posed in her signature serious-faced style.
It’s key to notice that hardly any of the photos feature a family of four in a dining room, Bielefeld said.
“The American ideal is to eat a home-cooked meal as a family around a table with no distractions while talking about the day... This was rarely the case during my portraits,” she told HuffPost. “Some families would picnic on the floor every night while another gentleman always stood against the countertop, reading the newspaper and looking out the window while he eats. Other families ate in different parts of the home and all prepared their own quick meal.”
Solo dinners are normal, too.
“Another reality is that many people eat alone, which is not always a sad or lonely thing,” Bielefeld told ICP.
Amen to THAT. Check out some of the photos from Bielefeld’s series below.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.