American-born photographer Thomas Ives has worked for international news and feature magazines for over 38 years. His photo essays and images have appeared in National Geographic, Time, Geo, Stern, Newsweek, Life, Smithsonian, and many others publications. He currently lives in Vilcabamba with his Ecuadorian partner.
We sometimes pass them by, usually quickly, as the sounds at construction sites can be physically and psychologically battering. I occasionally stop to watch them, especially when they are mixing and pouring cement for a second story or a roof. It usually represents a scene out of Bruegel: the team of hod carriers moving gravel and sand to the noisy mixer, then cement to the clever Erector Set lift that winches it to the roof. The ground team’s heads are wrapped in old tee shirts or clothes to keep the abrasive dust out of their lungs. Seldom do I see them wearing gloves even though they are shoveling massive quantities of gravel and sand.
At the front end of this non-stop operation is the person loading cement, bag by bag, into the mixer, each bag weighing 102 pounds.
On this particular day in Vilcabamba, it was 17-year-old Byron. I watched his carefully orchestrated routine of turning his back to a high pile of bags, sliding one off up to his shoulders and neck, walking it to the mixer, turning so his back and bag were facing the mixer. He then leans the bag against the mixer so he could set his hands at the base of the bag and with just the right motion and timing lifts the load, dumping the contents with a great swoosh of fine dust blasting out of the mixer orifice.
He would continue this Draconian task for a six hour shift, moving 150 – 50 kilo sacks with a ½-hour break for lunch. That’s 16,500 pounds (7,480 kilos) of dead weight.
With respect, Byron!
— Thomas Ives
To read the article about Thomas Ives, click here.
Copyright © 2013 by Thomas H. Ives