Voice of Maine: Bath Iron Works
Photo and text by Heather Perry, audio work by Hopper McDonough
Curious about the gritty, hardhat-wearing workers in their own backyard, Bath-based photographer Heather Perry and audiographer Hopper McDonough set out to document the faces and voices of Bath Iron Works.
They built a portable photo studio and set it up outside the Southgate entrance to BIW, complete with camera and recording equipment. The result is a series of studio portraits with accompanying audio that captures the hopes, fears, and pride expressed by the shipbuilders, some of whom come from families with a long history at “The Yard,” as it is known.
Shift whistle, break whistle, lunch whistle, shift whistle. Massive buildings on a mile of waterfront. Towering cranes. Three gates, through which 6,000 workers pass each day to assemble highly advanced destroyers for the U.S. Navy. The Southgate is where many of the welders, pipe fitters, painters, marine electricians, ship fitters, and insulators congregate between shifts and during breaks. It's a place where these union workers refer to themselves as brothers and sisters. The Southgate is their turf. Tight, dark, dirty spaces. Smoke. Grit. Ladders, ladders, ladders. Every kind of noise: grinding metal, alarms, clanging steel plates, grunts, laughter.
The Yard and the ships under construction are so big that many shipbuilders don’t have time to walk all the way out of the gates on their 30-minute lunch break. Of those who do, some took some of this precious time to step into Perry and McDonough’s booth and tell us all how they feel about being a shipbuilder.
To listen to the voices that go with these faces, click on the individual photos.