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Work: Part 3

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Anonymous Garment Worker > Fleurette Sewing Company

Photographed by Jenafer Gillingham


Firemen > Palmetto and Alameda, Downtown

Photographed by Jack Gould


Bobby Green > Truck Driver > Southdown Concrete

Photographed by Debra DiPaolo

The day the riots started, I got off work, and I was sitting home watching TV. I saw on the news what was happening to Reginald Denny — I saw Damien Williams with a brick in his hand. I got off my couch and ran down to rescue him. God told me to get up and help the poor man, and I drove him to the hospital. A week later I got this job.

I love my job. I drive a mixer. The batch man puts the concrete in the truck, and I go to the job site and pour it on. Then the workers finish it up. The job gives me peace of mind, and I work on my own. I also get to meet different people. We did Magic Johnson’s house, and Denzel Washington’s. Denzel’s house took 40 loads of concrete.

I work between 10 and 12 hours a day. I don’t mind working all those hours, because I’ve got to feed my family. And I’ll be doing it another 20 or 30 years.


Curtis Berak > Ancient Instrument Builder/Restorer

Photographed by Leor Levine

I never studied music. I only studied art. I was a painter, and while I painted I listened to music. I liked baroque music and early classical music, and I became fascinated with the organ and the harpsichord. And when I got books and looked at the instruments of that period, they were works of art themselves. They had paintings on them — they were sculptures in a sense. They had all the elements I was interested in, and so I became even more interested, especially because they were so rare, and had sort of disappeared. Like dinosaurs, they’d been dug back up, and people were just beginning to put the bones together and get them working again.

I hadn’t even seen an actual harpsichord until I built one. I mean, I couldn’t find one. But someone had told me there were kits you could buy to make them. I went and looked in a piano magazine in the library, and I looked in the back, and sure enough there was a place to write away for some kits. So this brochure came and said, “Build Your Own Harpsichord.” So I did. It was from some place in Nebraska. And they sent plans, a keyboard, and jacks, which pluck the strings. So I made my first harpsichord. That was in 1975.

Later on my work got more sophisticated — I started picking out the materials and building them from scratch, and restoring other instruments. And I did both for a long time, painting and musical instrument– making. But when I started getting known for my instruments, and everybody was calling me to buy them and rent them, that became what I do. I started making instruments for people who wanted them, and then I started renting them out to orchestras.

I transport all the instruments in my old postal-service Jeep. The organ comes apart, and the harpsichords just come off their stands. I have to set them up and tune them when I bring them in, because they come off the truck where it’s hot into an air-conditioned place where it’s cold. That takes about an hour and a half to two hours, and the last hour should be quiet. Sometimes I don’t get that luxury, and I have to adapt to the time.

I’m just finding out about some instruments, like the early pianos from the beginning of the 19th century, and the hurdy-gurdy, which is a French string instrument, a “wheel fiddle.” Research has gone on to find out how the instruments were made, and more and more information has come to light, and they sound better and better. I’m getting closer every year to re-creating how they used to sound.

After all that, I got interested in music and learned how to play myself. Now I do concerts on the hurdy-gurdy with people. I did a tour of Ireland for about five weeks. We did 20 concerts. I never thought I’d be doing something like that.


Janitor > Union Station

Photographed by Leor Levine


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