Peter Gourniak City Center Lehigh Valley photographer Downtown Allentown PA

Taking a moment to appreciate the sometimes forgotten people helping to rebuild downtown

Spring 2015. A warm sunny day, I was rushing down Hamilton Street near Seventh with my photo gear on my way to my next shoot. A nice businesswoman passes me with a smile, and I return one, hurrying along. I was approaching an older woman with a cane just strolling along, looking up at the new buildings with thick glasses, and as I was about parallel with her she said (emphatically) to me, “Really nice day, isn’t it?”

_MG_5958In my head, I was already in the car driving and planning my next shoot when, it hit me like one of those huge crane hooks dropped right on my head. I slowed to her pace, looked around, and from the deepest part of me came a smile. She had pulled me right into the moment, and I totally empathized with her fascination for the lovely weather. We walked (very slowly) for an enlightening block. She had a great insight into all the workers that are so proud of their jobs, and she was fascinated that they get to build things like arenas, apartments and restaurants.

I have been shooting the building process in Allentown for about three-and-a-half years now, and when I first started I thought some of those construction guys wanted to beat me up. Union guys are tough as nails — I had to have my hard hat, steel-tipped shoes and safety vest or they would not let me on the site. After a few months, they warmed up to me, and now they will even get their worker poses on when they see me coming. I have become buddies with a lot of them.

Thing is, when shooting I am focused like a laser beam, always framing things in my mind. I’m climbing on the steel, scaffolding, walking miles and laying in the dirt to get the right angles. But it’s nothing compared to the hard work, sweat and potential injuries endured during the bitter cold and wicked heat, pouring millions of gallons of cement and pulling steel (I could elaborate). It’s hard, hard work.

Here’s to all the men and women doing that hard work and who take real pride their jobs. And a sincere thank you to the nice lady who helped me look a little deeper into the world and focus in on that  enlightening moment on that lovely day in Allentown, Pa.


City Center Photographer Peter Gourniak has been a part of the Downtown Allentown arts and media industry for over three decades.

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