New exhibit at 9/11 Museum features the Mohawk ironworkers who built One World Trade Center

November 16, 2018

John, a third generation Mohawk ironworker who helped raise One World Trade, photographed by Melissa Cacciola, via Melisssa Cacciola

“Skywalkers: a Portrait of Mohawk Ironworkers at the World Trade Center,” opens today at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The exhibit features photographer Melissa Cacciola’s tintype portraits of Kahnawake Mohawk ironworkers who volunteered in rescue efforts after 9/11 and helped raise One World Trade Center, Towers 2, 3, and 4, and the Calatrava Transportation Hub.

 Photographs by Melissa Cacciola, via The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Mohawks have been “walking iron” in New York since 1916 when ironworkers from the Kahnawake Reservation near Montreal made their way to New York to work on the Hell Gate Bridge. In a legacy that spans over 100 years, Mohawk ironworkers have helped build virtually all of the city’s most iconic buildings, including The Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building, the George Washington Bridge, and of course, the original World Trade Center.

Cacciola chose tintype photography to help document that legacy because the art form and its subjects have something in common: iron. Tintype photographs are produced using a lacquered iron plate. But that’s not the only way the medium is connected to the portraits’ subjects: Tintype emerged in the mid-19th century, and some of the earliest tintype photos were taken of Native Americans.

Cacciola’s 30-portrait series was taken in 2012, and the photos have been part of other photography exhibits in the past, but this presentation provides a new way of experiencing the work because it offers audio guides with commentary in the Akwesasne and Kahnawake dialects.

The Museum will also offer a special program on December 13th, featuring Cacciola in conversation with Kahanwake Council Chief Lindsay LeBorgne and Local 40 Business Manager Robert Walsh. The trio will discuss the exhibition and history of the Mohawk ironworkers at the World Trade Center site.


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