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I quit my job: the story of why I chose to be a construction photographer

I got my first camera in 2016, and during that time I was working for a contractor. They were a small business, 3rd generation family run, and they did the most fascinating work; all high industrial, specialized construction in everything from wastewater treatment to hydroelectric facilities. I spent about a decade at this company, getting to see the inner workings of the places that almost no one gets to see; 100-year-old powerhouses, the underside Snoqualmie Falls, and watching the hair rise up on my arms in the 500kV Switchyard at Grand Coulee Dam. Just like at most small companies I wore a lot of hats; everything from project management to safety management, but what I liked most about this job was being on site. But something happened when I started bringing my camera onto the job site. My daily grind began to give way and my eyes began to open to a new passion, which was using my camera to tell the story of these projects.

(Inner workings of 100+year-old electrical equipment at Shoshone Falls Powerhouse, Twin Falls, ID) Copyright Katie Morton Photography 2023

The more I shot, the more I began seeing a pattern in the format and application of construction photography; I started to see what I believed was a missed opportunity for that company and for other companies as well. I noticed it the most when I was tasked with building the website for that contractor, as well as when reviewing project write-ups for our proposals. I noticed it when drafting our portfolio and choosing which current projects to showcase, and how to feature our company media news, DEI, and press releases. Pretty soon I started to notice it with the prime contractors and owners we were working for as well (typically when I went onto their websites to steal all their graphic design and layout ideas - Hey, there is no fairer form of flattery than imitation, and I was working with the web design experience I had at the time, which was basically none).

So the pattern went like this: I would hop onto a contractor website, and right off the bat I would see beautiful final finished photos or artist renderings of these finished projects (hopefully licensed from the photographer that was hired by the architect), and then a concise and generally boring blurb derived from the project specs describing said photo. Now, I have a keen passion for construction as well as photography, but oddly enough I didn’t feel engaged by this presentation. I found myself wanting more – something almost editorial. Then it dawned on me; as much as I enjoy architectural photography (and it absolutely has its place in construction), I didn’t know that was truly encapsulating what we all know any hard-working contractor is actually selling.

So, what is every hard-working contractor selling? Their brand of course - The unique qualities that make their company distinctive among all others. But aside from a flashy logo and neat project time lapse on their front page - these websites were missing something, a big ‘something’.

This ‘something’ was all the most interesting and compelling photos and details about their work! It was descriptions of the challenges faced, the feasibilities addressed, the who, the how, and the why these projects were so impactful. These ‘somethings’ were the: ‘this is why you should pick us to do the job’ photos. It was photos of their team members and tradesmen – working alongside one another to get the job done. It was the ingenuity, knowledge, creativity, capability, and experience of the old and new guard collectively. It was their stories and the lasting impact of the work they are doing. They were missing their history as it unfolded in real-time as they made their mark on this world - figuratively and literally; they were missing their legacy. These ‘somethings’ were nowhere to be found.

(an employee for MICHELS Foundations stands by as the earth is transformed to make way for a new highrise in downtown Seattle) Copyright Katie Morton Photography 2023

So as I am realizing this, I think to myself: "If only I could find a way to wrap up all of this into one powerhouse product and help these companies capture all of this for the world to see.” The answer was staring me in the face, but in order to be successful, I knew I needed to give it everything I had. So, I did what any crazy person would do in a rough economy: I quit my job and formed my own company as a construction photographer. Fast-forward a year and a half later, I am a certified Washington State vendor, just as well I am registered both Federally and in Washington State as a WBE (women's business enterprise), SBE (Small Business Enterprise), SCS (Small Contractor Supplier for King County), and I am awaiting confirmation of my DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise). In addition, I have amassed a broad range of fantastic clients in a variety of mediums and just secured my first government contract as a sole proprietor.

So now we get to the fun part!

As you may have already noticed I am a passionate person, but I believe that passion is only effective and productive when it is applied toward shared values with my clients, especially if we are going to try and capture the legacy of a company. In my experience, some of the most effective values I look for are authenticity, efficiency, and resourcefulness from the top down – more specifically: giving the right people the right tools and trusting them to get the job done.

When I have these values in place with my clients – we are truly able to put their photos to work for their brand, by capturing the unique qualities that make the company stand out. Most importantly, we are better able to define their legacy and the lasting impact their company is having on their surrounding communities.

Here is the best part, which is where we tie the lasting value of effective construction photography from myself as the photographer to the contractor, to the owner, and finally to the end user:

The values being implemented here aren’t just important to me and my clients, they are important to the entities supplying their contracts and the Municipal, State, and Federal funding for said contracts as well. I know full well based on my experience working in government contracts for a contractor as well as a sole proprietor, that more than ever we are seeing government contracts released with increased requirements for meeting goals in DEI (Diversity, Equality, & Inclusion) utilization, as well as media & community outreach plans. Understanding creative and effective ways to meet these goals is where I come in – I want to be a key resource to help contractors of all sizes meet these requirements, and, get a huge band for their buck.

(We drive by these places every single day, taking for granted what it takes to keep the lights on. Massive transformers at a downtown substation hum under typical Seattle skies) Copyright Katie Morton Photography 2023

Now just imagine that you have access to an experienced construction photographer with not only a comprehensive knowledge of the industry, but a passion for the work that you do specifically – and this photographer gets to apply their knowledge and passion to their work, keeping a mindful approach to some of your strongest core values: like safety and compliance, DEI(diversity, equity & inclusion), and a strong and capable public-facing image. From the owner to the end user - through photography, we can deliver them a compounding legacy that they can be proud of; a story of their project that is worthy of a thousand words. And in doing so, we can secure a more poignant recapitulation of the merit of the work you have done for them.

I am that photographer - and I want to be the one to capture the significance of the work that you’re doing through exceptional construction storytelling.

I have the privilege of working with some exceptional contractors and government entities right now, but I am always looking for my next biggest challenge and I could be your new secret weapon in the field. Knowing where to start is everything, so let’s keep it simple: we start by putting myself in touch with a variety of different roles and responsibilities within your company which could be DEI, communications, community investment, project management, ownership, or digital assets. From here, we forge a relationship and understanding of your company’s media priorities and begin to implement some ideas to get these priorities met. I can’t wait to tell the story of your company through photography.

Walls are formed. Copyright Katie Morton Photography 2023

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