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Images of The Year in Construction: More Than Meets the Eye

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When you look at the winners of ENR’s Annual Photo Contest, you will notice that some are memorable images that come from amateur photographers. Selected by a panel of judges from 1,752 entries, those excellent amateur photos prove digital cameras have democratized high-quality photography to a degree never imagined by George Eastman, and the construction industry is a key beneficiary.

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Photo: Brad Brenner,Volkert Construction Services Inc., Mobile, Ala. Submitted by: John Horn, Volkert Construction
Volkert is responsible for constructionengineering inspection services for the reconstruction of the Interstate-10 Twin Span bridges over Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell, La., for the Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development.
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Digital point-and-shoot cameras purchased to make routine work-progress photos now routinely produce photojournalism by citizen-photographers. Tina Serafin, for example, project manager for Danny’s Construction Co., climbed on top of a scoreboard at the new Minnesota Twins Ballpark in Minneapolis to shoot ironworkers from a better vantage point.

“I think I just had the company camera, a Canon Sure-Shot,” she says. Another amateur-turned-award winner is Michael Gilbert, an inspector for Louisiana TIMED Management, who shot the widening of the Huey P. Long Bridge superstructure in New Orleans. He intended his photos to document work on the bridge, but he captured something more interesting in its painted, lacy steel.

The photos that follow also celebrate something else: the professional photographer. He or she studies or apprentices in the field; invests in costly, delicate equipment; sometimes spends days or weeks planning a single shot; travels to reach the subject or site, and shoots and shoots and shoots to get a single special image. “I kind of sat on that guy on the 18-wheeler for 45 minutes,” says Alissa Hollimon, a corporate photographer for Zachry Holdings Inc., whose images appear on this week’s cover and editorial page. “I probably had a hundred shots of him, different angles and stuff.”

Construction invites attention from pros even when they are not on assignment. Peder Thompson struck up a conversation with a foreman at the Wakota Bridge project in South St. Paul, Minn., “and got on the job and took the pictures,” he says. The camera? A gift from a friend who once had used it to take portraits of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. That “tickled some of the workers,” says Thompson.

To the pros, luck is the residue of design. Out on an early morning job walk for McCarthy Construction at a college campus in San Mateo, Calif., site engineer Peter Dering says the clouds thinned behind a cascade of crushed recycled aggregate, creating the right moment to shoot.

Patrick Cashin, who has photographed New York City tunnel projects and sandhogs for a decade, found the light emanating from the hardhats more illuminating than any other light source he could have used to brighten his subjects. Using only available light “makes the photos more real to me,” says Cashin.

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