Exhibition of Melissa Cacciola's Tintypes on View at The World Trade Center

January 17, 2015

Skywalkers: The Legacy of the Mohawk Ironworker by Melissa Cacciola will be on view at the World Trade Center, Tower Four, from February 4th – March 18th, 2015. There is a public opening on Thursday, February 5th from 6:00 - 9:00 PM. 

Skywalkers presents Cacciola's efforts to document this latest generation of Mohawk ironworkers and record a dying tradition. This portfolio represents thirty tintype portraits of Mohawk ironworkers from the Kahnawake and Akwesasne reservations in Canada.

For over a century and a half, Mohawk ironworkers have traveled from Canada to New York City to build our iconic skyline from the Empire State Building to the George Washington Bridge. “A Mohawk family tradition,” the portraits and interviews in this series include fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, cousins near and distant, and friends. Done in gangs of six consisting of connectors, bolters-up, journeymen, taglinemen, and signalmen, ironwork requires strength, skill, and ingenuity to guide massive steel beams weighing up to 20,000 pounds into the steel skeleton of the building. At its peak in the 1950s there were about 800 Mohawks in New York City, now there are as few as 200. Historians have several explanations of how Mohawks got into this business. Some say Mohawks honed their balance and strength with a history of hunting, fur trading and later driving logs. Yet as fewer and fewer men are entering the business and the numbers of the Mohawk community shrink, these men know this is a dying tradition. 

From an apprentice to a forty-two-year career veteran, the journey of the Mohawk ironworker is told through the landscape of each face.Using the historic process of the tintype, Cacciola employs a large format wooden view camera, period brass lenses, and 19th century chemical formulas to create an individual portrait of each ironworker. Some of the earliest tintypes known today are of Native Americans. The relevance of this historic connection, as well as the powerful characteristics of this early form of photography, result in a series of haunting portraits of this small community of men.  

The Mohawk ironworker is disappearing and without documentation future generations will no longer know the courage and strength of this community or its legacy in building New York’s iconic skyline. 

Public viewings are available Thursday through Saturday, noon - 6:00 PM by appointment only. Email to see the show.