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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hintlian: Digging

Recently I've been spending a lot of time with what I think is an unusually wonderful documentary project, my friend Michael Hintlian's new book Digging: The Workers of Boston's Big Dig, published by the very interesting GroupM35. I don't know what to say about this work that it can't say better for itself; with uncommon persistence, Michael has managed to mine the subject for pictures that are gritty with truth and yet have art's ability to reward repeated viewings and consistent meditation. Compared to the warbling of much so-called "documentary" today, this is a song sung from deep in the chest.

Every photo student could learn something from these two brief paragraphs:

"More important than technique or equipment has been approach—it has not been an easy subject to penetrate. My access to the sites has been self-granted. I started shooting the project in 1997. For the first two years I was usually chased out of the sites and told to leave. To my advantage, the project was so big that I could walk a block or two and enter another totally separate and unconnected site and continue to work. I got used to it. Then, after several years, supervision got used to me and grew tired of shooing me out. I made sure I brought 5x7s to pass out on some regular basis, which helped break ice, and after a while I was able to work almost unnoticed. That was what I worked for and it's made a big difference in the kind of photographs I have been able to make. Officially I have no status...I don't belong there and never have. But then, I do, actually.

"I have tried to make photographs that are a tribute to the individuals who worked on the project, as well as a document a major urban infrastructure project. The project has changed me as photographer perhaps as much as it has changed this city; I have come to see the deeper rewards of shooting from an inner place where thought cannot interfere, where the heart knows."

A great book. The reproduction is top class. I highly recommend it.



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