January 15, 2014 New York City, NY (MailOnline) — Photographer Ellen Jacob, 58, told MailOnline that she was inspired to start the project after noticing how it was often ‘black women pushing white babies around’ on Manhattan’s affluent Upper West Side.
After spending four years scouring the streets for willing subjects she discovered the majority of caregivers, aged 23 to 60, were immigrants living on the minimum wage with no sick pay, holidays or health benefits.
‘They told me how they work very long days and are often paid less than the price of the dance classes they were chaperoning children to.’
But despite the low wages, many of the women were content with life and some had been in the job for many years.
Indeed, Gemma who Ms Jacobs met on her travels, had been a nanny for more than two decades, working for four families in that time.
She explained that she never got too attached to ‘her children’ because she knew she would eventually leave them behind.
Because of this temporary cycle, Ms Jacob called her photo series ‘Surrogates’.
Her collection of images show an array of nannies busy at work in the city.
Several are pictured with their children in Central Park while others are seen accompanying youngsters on their commute to school or extra-curricular activities.
One humorous shot shows a nanny with a little boy in McDonald’s with him craning over the table for his fries and Big Mac.
Only one of the images shows a white woman and no men are featured.
Ms Jacob says that she thinks the race and class divide is ‘deeply rooted in culture’ and something that cannot be fixed overnight.
She adds that most of the nannies are much-loved by families but they still don’t get treated 100per cent correctly.