Great news--one of my construction portraits was selected by ENR magazine as a best construction photo of 2012! I'm quite honored to be included, of course, and you should check out the magazine if you have it around or go have a look at the online gallery of all the photographs.
When I found out that the photo was being considered for the honor, the editors of ENR contacted me to get some background information on the photograph. Truth be told, I didn't know too much. Construction workers are notoriously shy subjects as most of the folks they see with cameras are there to simply capture progress or, more annoyingly, small safety infractions and the like that can get the worker in trouble with the contractor or the union. Cameras are seldom benign objects in their minds and so they turn their backs not wanting to be photographed--and most definitely don't want their name attached. To compound matters, most of the time I shoot on construction sites, I'm flying around trying to capture as much as possible during a limited amount of time (at WTC, I usually have about an hour or two to cover the entire site, high to low, east to west, north to south), so I don't dwell in any one place for too long. The day I shot this, I spent maybe 2 minutes after I spotted this fellow, the lighting and the scene getting him into place and shooting a few frames with a Hasselblad and a few more with a Polaroid. Then it was back to business for him and on to the next thing for me. He was remarkably open about being photographed, and his personality shone through like the sun. In hindsight, I really should have stayed longer and asked him for his details. Regret sucks.
ENR told me I needed to find out his name in order for them to run the photo. How do you find people after you photograph them? Who was this mystery man? Luckily, contractors keep decent records, so it was easy for me to find out what subcontractor he was working for and his union local but getting the name was taking a too long. I contacted the union to see if they could ID him, but I had no idea how long that might take or if I would get the information in time. I was running short on time and ENR wanted to know if I could come up with the goods, so I took matters into my own hands. I jumped on social media, in this case Instagram. I seached images tagged with the union. I quickly found a few that were from the World Trade Center. I then posted my photo, and asked the users who had uploaded WTC images with the union tag if they knew this guy. I got an "Oh Lord!" response almost immediately. I thought the user meant his response in the sense, "Oh Lord, that guy? He's a character!", because quite frankly in the minute or two I spent with him, I knew that he had to be. His response was actually the first name of the mystery man! I got the full name and a few days later the union backed it up. Meet Lord Monroe.