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–even just the crossing guard who gets your kids across Main Street safely. 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 lives 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 interesting visually.
Plus, you never know just how valuable those images might become–particularly to the subjects themselves.
The Tree Cutters
Recently I had a big old maple tree taken down in my backyard. I got so fascinated watching the tree cutters work, I decided to document their amazing skills (and courage–the tree was nearly 90-feet tall). These guys swung around the treetops with a four-foot chain saw like ballerinas on an aerial stage. I probably shot 100 or so images during the several hours they worked.
Once they had the tree down, I went inside, downloaded the images and printed a few of the guy who did most of the cutting. When I gave him the prints, he was pretty shocked. I thought it was because I was able to hand him an 8 x 10-inch print in a matter of minutes.
Connecting a Mother and Son
The story, however, 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 (and living here legally), he’d never had a photo taken of himself to send home.
Of course, I gave him a set of prints to send to his mother 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.