Over the next decade, there will be 533,000 good middle-skill jobs available in manufacturing. Yet only 7 percent of workers in these jobs are women, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and PhotoShelter member Deanne Fitzmaurice wanted to bring attention to this imbalance by featuring the women who are blazing trails in manufacturing. The result: a series of photographs she’s called “Modern Day Rosie the Riveters.”
Sixteen of Deanne’s “Modern Rosies” are featured as part of the Women Can Build project with Jobs to move America, now on display in lower Manhattan through. Unveiled on International Women’s Day, the Women Can Build project pays tribute with photos of hardworking women in the transportation industry – those who build and contribute to our country’s buses, trains, roads, and bridges.
We spoke to Deanne about the project (which will be on display until May 18th), and why these stories were important for her to tell.
Tell us about the Women Can Build exhibit. Why did you feel it was important for you to get involved?
I think we find ourselves at a critical point in our country where women’s rights are being questioned. I look at this exhibit as an opportunity to inspire young women and girls to go after what they want. These inspirational women in manufacturing that I photographed have proven that they deserve equal opportunity and equal pay.
Tell us how you conceptualized your photos for “Modern Day Rosie the Riveter.” How did you find and approach these women? What were the big challenges?
I was approached and commissioned by an organization, Jobs to Move America, to create this series of images, originally for their website. The project evolved into an exhibit for a summit at the White House called The United State of Women, an exhibit at the AFL-CIO Headquarters, an exhibit at Union Station in Los Angeles, and now in Manhattan’s financial district.
This non-profit helped to find the women featured and gave me complete creative control. I approached the shoot as a documentary environmental portrait project showing women in their work environment.
Is there one photo from this series that carries a tremendous amount of meaning for you? Tell us why and the story behind it.
My assistant, Phil Pacheco and I were on a midwest road trip photographing “Rosies.” One day we arrived in Rochelle, Illinois to photograph Stacey Corcoran in the factory where she works as an electrician. We were told we couldn’t shoot in the factory though, so we had to come up with a Plan B.
We scouted locations and since she works on trains, we decided on a set of train tracks as a location for the portrait. Just before she arrived, dark clouds rolled in and it started to rain. I thought we might have to reschedule the shoot as the rain got heavier, but we went ahead with it.
I really like the way it worked out. The rain left the gravel and tracks with a glossy sheen and the dark sky made her pop once we brought in a single Profoto D1 light. So on this one, I am glad we didn’t get into the factory.
Shooting for a number of years now, when it comes to the business side of things, what’s something you wish you learned earlier on?
I think its important to diversify, but also have a niche. Diversify clients types such as editorial, non-profit and corporate, and also diversify platform types such as still imagery and filmmaking. Most importantly, follow the stories that interest you.
Have you come across any new photographers recently whose work you admire? What about his or her work do you like?
I’m really liking Jabin Botsford from The Washington Post. His work is fresh, original, and has great energy and surprise.
What’s on tap for you this year? Tell us about any upcoming assignments or personal projects you’re excited about.
I am continuing to work on my Saleh story, which I have been photographing and filming for 13 years now. It has become so timely and relevant in the current conversation about immigration and Muslims in America. I’m going to make this into a documentary film. Also, my Rosie portrait project is evolving into a book and new project related to women.
Follow Deanne Fitzmaurice
Women Can Build: www.womencanbuild.org
P.S. To see how we’re celebrating women photographers and the stories they tell this month, check out our latest video featuring photographers Bonnie Chiu, Gina LeVay, Barbara Kinney and Delphine Diallo.