The idea for the project started after a conversation with Carol Kammen, the Tompkins County Historian, about how I missed documenting the community. Somehow we got on the topic of work, workers, Studs Terkel’s Book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do and the wonderful book of local photos Great Possibilities: 150 Verne Morton Photographs – edited by my friend Harry Littell and Ronald E. Ostman – and what a good idea it would be to make portraits of people who work with their hands– to celebrate the under-celebrated.
This series of portraits and taped interviews intends to be a glimpse into the lives of local people who work with their hands.
The narratives are a nod to Terkel, whose book Working is based on his taped interviews. I read the book as a teenager and found the stories fascinating.
I am grateful to those who agreed to participate in the project and who allowed me to make their portraits and tape their interviews. I found some compelling similarities in producing this work. The people in this project are proud of the work they do and despite manual labor taking a toll on their bodies, they love working with their hands. I often felt that they seemed honored that I included them. They were delighted that I was recognizing the work they did and that I wanted to tell their stories and share them with the community.