Five years ago, when it was announced that several major construction projects were to be undertaken within a few blocks of Doug Van de Zande's McDowell Street studio, the photographer decided to document the cycle of demolition and erection on film. "Since I was right in the middle of it all, it was easy to just walk out my door with my camera and photograph the changes taking place," says Van de Zande, who often used his free time to shoot from parking decks adjacent to the construction.
After making hundreds of images of the rising structures, Van de Zande realized that in order to tell the whole story, he needed to show the men and women who actually did the arduous physical labor. The resulting collection, which will be on display at the Convention Center's grand opening Sept. 5, will consist of about 80 photographs—half of which are portraits that show us the faces of those who do the dirty work (and, judging from the amount of pulverized mortar seen in some of the images, dirty it is).
Over four months, Van de Zande figures he shot about 70 portraits representing a cross-section of the workers: "Young, old, male, female, black, white and Hispanic, [all] in various jobs involved in bringing the projects together."
Van de Zande points out that "all government buildings have a plaque naming the architects, the mayor [and] city council members." Van de Zande's photography, certain to be more impressive than any plaques onsite at the center's opening, will serve to recognize the workers' enormous anonymous contribution to the completed project.