November 9, 2023

Constructing communities


Building Community with Photography

I've never lived so close to a major construction site as I have the last two years. I realized too late in the process how it's a setting that could be an excellent framework for a community building exercise like so many I've been involved with as a photographer. One of the supervisors would occasionally comment on my cameras when I happened to be carrying them. I finally had a chance to introduce myself to JR in the shadow of the rising National Black Theater Building in Harlem. I was encouraged when he started brainstorming with three other workers about all the ways photography would be a valuable investment for his company, and he encouraged me to prepare an introduction.

My name is Garrett Ewald. I've been a photographer for many years for publications, organizations, and communities. While I had been thinking first of the community erecting our new neighbor, JR was bouncing bigger ideas around with his colleagues. All of them and more would be part of a great legacy to complement the structures he and his coworkers have ben involved with.

JR later told me more about the organization behind the new building outside my window. It's an impressive portfolio in a wide variety of communities. While many photo opportunities for this building have passed, there are more to come.

Over the years I've returned again and again to the basic idea of a yearbook. Twenty years from now it would be great to have a record of the people and events involved in developing and constructing a building. A first step in enhancing the brand of the various parties that made it happen, and the foundation for ongoing investments by the building in documenting the impact it makes over the coming decades. The permanence of a book, built around stunning photography, and impactful writing, not just fleeting posts to social media. A construction yearbook could recognize the contributions of key sub contractors, the skilled workers, the management team, and more. A similar investment in documenting projects as they are embraced by the community around them will pay dividends for the developers and the communities for years to come.

I had the good fortune of growing up in Reston, Virginia, the innovative new town created by a New York transplant named Robert E. Simon in the early 1960s. I've been encouraged to discover that a museum has been quietly gathering assets about the birth and growth of this architectural and land development masterpiece. Sadly there were only limited investments in creating images for many years so their efforts can only celebrate rare discoveries of new materials.

Reston and I are about the same age. I was in the first graduating class of the high school in Reston and worked on the yearbooks. In college I worked on the award wining campus yearbook which elevated photography to the driver of the publication. Later I created a yearbook for the athletic department at Indiana University, and more recently I advocated for and extensively documented life in our son's schools, and last summer at the Asphalt Green. These experiences frame many of my ideas for work I could do for a developer of major construction projects.

It would be great to brainstorm with you and focus on the ideas that best meet your needs.