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'Digging' For The Big Dig

'Digging' For The Big DigAfter3,000 rolls of film, 110,000 photographs and seven years of work,photojournalist and Tufts graduate Michael Hintlian recently publisheda book chronicling Boston’s Big Dig.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.22.04] After 20 rejections and a flirtation with self-publishing,Tufts graduate Michael Hintlianfinally found the right fit for Digging, his 128-pagebook of photography that documents the immensity of the CentralArtery/Tunnel project and the matching immensity of Hintlian’sendeavour itself.

"TheArtery project is probably the most hostile environment in whichI have ever worked; mud, clouds of dust, splashing concrete, anoily mist in the air, subzero temperatures in winter and summerheat," Hintlian told Focus magazine.

Hintlian wasnot deterred by these conditions, though the attitudes of workersinitially did not make the project any easier. But he perseveredand won over many of his critics at the job site.

"Forthe first two years I was usually chased out of the sites andtold to leave," Hintlian told Focus. "To myadvantage, the project was so big that I could walk a block ortwo and enter another totally separate and unconnected site andcontinue to work. I got used to it. Then, after several years,supervision got used to me and grew tired of shooing me out.

Endearinghimself to his photography subjects helped Hintlian gain access.

“I madesure I brought 5X7's to pass out on some regular basis, whichhelped break ice, and after a while I was able to work almostunnoticed,” he described to Focus. “Thatwas what I worked for and it's made a big difference in the kindof photographs I have been able to make."

After hisresults were accepted by the workers at the job site they weresoon accepted by various publications including Stuff Magazine,Architecture Design and Icon Magazine. In December2003, the Tufts graduate received the Griffin Award for his BigDig image "Leaping Shadow."

Digging isthe latest product of Hintlian’s Big Dig photography. Civilengineer Fred Salvucci, the man who convinced former Mass. GovernorMichael Dukakis that the Big Dig would work, wrote the introductionto the book, which was published by Commonwealth Editions.

“Hegot it and understood it. He became a huge ally,” Hintliantold the North Shore Sunday of Lynnfield, noting thatSalvucci is the son of a union bricklayer and grew up in a familyof laborers.

“MichaelHintlian’s stunning photography reminds us that, at itscore, the project has been about construction workers using theirmuscle and brains to create an engineering marvel,” Salvucciwrote in the introduction. “Hintlian has captured in photographsboth the acrobatic poetry in motion of Big Dig workers and thesheer bone-chilling ache involved in the work . . . (He) has givenus a unique opportunity to sense how this project looked to theworkers who built it – underground, in the mud, or a hundredfeet in the air on the Zakim Bridge.”

Many of thephotographs were shot on black and white film, mirroring Hintlian’sperception of the public works project.

"Whyblack and white? The Big Dig is a black and white project; thereis very little color,” Hintlian told Focus. “WhenI shoot color I really want to go for color, I think that's whata photographer is compelled to do . . . the palette becomes availableand, thus, becomes an important consideration."

Besides hisBig Dig work, Hintlian is involved with a project about the formerSoviet republics of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, which was oncepart of Azerbaijan.

“Themore I do it, I look for a photo that echoes something withinme,” Hintlian told the North Shore Sunday. “Greatphotography isn’t available through thinking. If a photoshoot isn’t working, there’s too much editing goingon.”





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