Working on the Water Series: 2005
“The creation of this exhibit has been an extraordinary adventure for me. It has dramatically altered the way I see, both as an artist, and as an American. It has significantly advanced an already existing change in how I create my images; and, it has profoundly changed the way I see America at work. “Work” is the important word here because I have always considered America a great work in progress. This is absolutely true in Hampton Roads.
My last series of images focused on the now “cold” Bethlehem Steel Works— a remaining vestige of the height of our Industrial Age. When I first saw The Steel, I thought I had discovered the place where America was made, and so it was—from the Empire State Building to the St. Louis Arch to the Golden Gate Bridge, and much of the infrastructure in between. To me it was huge, but soon, sadly, it will vanish.
In Hampton Roads, I discovered incredible vistas—an industrial symbol of working America—as far as my eyes could see. Each bend in the Elizabeth or James Rivers contained so many stunning elements. Structures that I once thought were huge became the details, and even the details were of epic proportion. The huge machines that overwhelmed me, when seen close-up, became small parts of the larger panorama.
Residents of the region who view this exhibit will recognize the landmarks they see everyday from a distance. It will strike a familiar, yet very vague visual recollection—a means of physically locating themselves in the larger terrain. But relatively few know what really happens here. Up close, the pace is staggering and nonstop.
I found Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to be a hub where America was made. Along this stretch of Virginia’s waterways, I discovered where America starts. The history of the region is well-known. Jamestown was founded as a deep water port. Captain John Smith’s vision has proven to be prophetic.
Hampton Roads is a portal to the United States and a doorway to the rest of the world. The maritime commerce that takes place here is nothing short of the lifeblood of this country’s global economy. It has been an enormous pleasure to create the images seen here and an enriching experience meeting some of the extraordinary people who labor on the waterways of Hampton Roads.”
Janos Enyedi, 2005
excerpted from Working on the Water, catalog.