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Book Reviews: Construction

Construction. Photographs by Brian Finke.
Decode Books, 2012.
Reviewed by Tom Leininger

Photographs by Brian Finke.
Decode Books, 2012. Hardbound. 80 pp., 59 color illustrations, 10x10".

Brian Finke's trademark bright colors and dramatic light are at play in his new book Construction. Finke is interested in the daily drama of the work site. He finds workers up in the sky traversing narrow beams and barren soon to be office floors. When the workers are on the ground structures and equipment tower over them.

Uniformed groups of people have been a part of Finke's oeuvre for some time. Football players, cheerleaders and flight attendants were in his previous two books. While the workers do not have a required uniform, they tend dress alike due to practicality. Jeans, boots, plaid shirts, sleeveless t-shirts, and gloves are commonplace. Individuality comes out in stickers hard hats and painted welding masks.

Construction, by Brian Finke. Published by Decode Books, 2012.

Finke's sophisticated framing and use of light is heightened in this book; he is clearly a photographer working at the top of his game. Getting closer to the workers brings the viewer into a claustrophobic closeness. Finke takes the viewer onto the work site, next to the action. This shows the size of the hooks needed to hoist steel beams. His focus is on their building efforts and celebrating their handwork. Finke stands back when needed to show the jungle gym like structures these workers are building, creating contrast by bringing in human scale. Whitney Johnson's insightful essay explains how this series fits into the other books Finke has made. His interest in individuals working in teams is well fitted to this topic.

Construction, by Brian Finke. Published by Decode Books, 2012.
Construction, by Brian Finke. Published by Decode Books, 2012.

At 10.5 x 10.5 inches, the book is square like the images. It does not overwhelm and gives enough room for the photographs to breathe. A majority of the images were made while looking up or at an elevated height, bringing in a lot of sky, the color of which is replicated in the endpapers and the binding. One shortcoming of the book is the lack of captions. Finke is a documentary photographer, and an image list explaining the kind of structures being built would have helped. There is a similarity in some of the spaces photographed, and using captions would have given the reader more information not readily available. How many of these scenes are outside of New York?

Construction, by Brian Finke. Published by Decode Books, 2012.

Finke's ability to look at the socio-tribalism of construction workers is unique. While these men and women are have the potential for being made into heroes, Finke holds back on that declaration. It is amazing that our cities are still made by men and women working like this. The strength of the book is the laser focus Finke uses when it comes to the subject matter. The sophisticated images give the viewer plenty of details to dive into. This type of documentary photography is where Finke excels. His photographs give the viewer plenty to take in.—TOM LEININGER

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TOM LEININGER is a photographer and educator based in North Texas. More of his work can be found on his website.