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“The best way out is always through.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Photograph People at Work

Every day we're surrounded by people at work: men putting a new roof on the house next door, people selling produce at the farmers' market, etc. But how often do you stop and capture these bits of daily life with your camera? In large part all of these people who keep the fabric of our life together go unnoticed and undocumented. We tend to develop a blind spot to everyday events. But the things people do for a living are often quite visually interesting. Recently I had a big old maple tree taken down in my backyard and I got so fascinated watching them work I decided to document their amazing skills (and courage--the tree was nearly 90-feet tall). I probably shot 100 or so images during the several hours that they worked.

Once the tree cutters had the tree down, I went inside, downloaded the images and printed a few of the guy that did most of the cutting. When I have him the print he seemed somewhat shocked. At first I thought he was just surprised that I was able to give him an 8x10-inch print in just a few minutes. But the story was far more interesting: It turns out he'd never seen a photograph of himself at work and--even more incredibly--his mother back in Central America hadn't seen a photo of him in the 12 years he'd been living and working here. I was stunned. In all the time he was living here he'd never had a photo taken of himself to send home.

Of course I gave him prints to send home to her and he was overwhelmed and very grateful. Here I was just trying to pass the time and put some more images into my library and those photos became a connection between a mother and son thousands of miles apart. Everyone has a story to tell, as a photographer it's your job to help them tell it visually.

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