BLUE: America at Work takes us behind the closed doors of the factories and production plants across America to see the dedicated and hardworking people that are making the products we consume every day. Shot in medium format, black and white film, I have photographed workers at dozens of plants across America -- at a lobster picking factory in Maine, a metal fabrication facility in Illinois, a sugar plant in Louisiana, a shampoo factory in Michigan ... and many more. And now it's time to launch an exhibit!
WHY KICKSTARTER (WHY YOU)?
These days a museum doesn't lay down a bunch of cash and say 'print your best work and we'll exhibit it'. The reality is the artist has to bear most of the costs. A selection of 25 prints will be exhibited at the Museum of the Americas in Washington, DC, opening on November 5, 2012 and I need your help to create silver gelatin exhibition-quality prints ($8000) (and frame them [$3000]) for the show. Additional funds for logistics and shipping ($750) will help round it out. So far I've covered all the costs of production and travel for this project and even printed some of the work prints myself. There have been many a long night agitating scores of medium format film rolls! Brooklyn printer John Cyr will work the darkroom side (http://silver68.com/) at a generous discount and International Art Gallery in Washington, DC (http://intlartgallerydc.com/), will similarly do the framing. And I'll be kicking in for additional costs as well. Fabian Goncalves Borrega at the Organization of American States will curate the exhibition.
Also, this exhibit will be featured as part of the Fotoweek DC schedule of events held November 9-18, 2012.
We go to the supermarket or the hardware store and buy stuff but who knows where it comes from. Who makes shampoo??? Or tug boats? Pickles? I suppose this is my own journey of discovery but I've also had the privilege of photographing business owners and CEOs for more than a decade and realized long ago it's not just about the figureheads, it's about the good people that are working the line every day. Every single day, for decades and decades. They have some really great stories to tell.
And they are some amazing people. In small towns across America folks get up before dawn or go to bed at the same time, filling their days with sweat and repetition, making all the widgets and gizmos that we consume. These goodworking people have character and resolve and know what it means to put in a hard day's work. And it all makes for some fabulous photographs, sometimes in the dustiest, and even the cleanest, sites I've ever seen.
At the turn of the last century (the 20th) photographers like Louis Hine or Margaret Bourke-White photographed workers and in this century, many such masters such as Salvador Salgado have done the same. They have all been an inspiration to me and I have sought to create my own style but with a similar intent. Mine is a cross section of manufacturing and industry rather than an extended essay at one location. What is unique here is the access I have to a wide range of manufacturing facilities.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
I took this project to the Fotofest Biennial in Houston this Spring and garnered quite a bit of positive feedback that helped me understand this isn't just an interesting visual for galleries, museums and a book, but it also serves as a kind of historical document or pictorial record of what manufacturing and production looks like today. It's relevance might only be fully understood in 30-years, or a 100. That's really exciting.
People have asked me if I've done this for the workers or for manufacturing and I have to say they've been the first inspiration. Many years ago I walked into my first textile/apparel factory in Southwestern Virginia and was astonished to learn this not only was the best job option for many in the town, but many had worked there for decades basically performing the same tasks. That, to me, is a sacrifice one makes for the clothes I get to wear. And at the same these workers are proud, loyal and extremely good at what they do.
One thing is for sure, Manufacturing is alive and well in the USA and not everything we consume is imported.
Have more questions? Not sure about what level to support? Do you represent an industry and want to arrange for a private exhibition? Do you have a great company you think might be good to participate in the project? Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
And stop by the web site from time to time (www.blueamericaatwork.com). There are scores of images that still haven't made it to scan and if I am so fortunate to raise more than my goal I'll use the funds to post more prints online.
Thanks very much for your support!
- (30 days)