Skywalkers: A Portrait of the Mohawk Ironworker at the World Trade Center

Skywalkers: A Portrait of the Mohawk Ironworker at the World Trade Center

Tintype Photographs by Melissa Cacciola

Mohawk ironworkers have shaped the skylines of North American cities for more than 100 years. Using a trade honed across generations, members of the Mohawk nation have traveled great lengths and scaled astonishing heights to build iconic bridges and buildings, earning the nickname skywalkers. Their work is intertwined with the modern history of lower Manhattan, where these Native American ironworkers helped build the Twin Towers, aided rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero, and worked to reconstruct the World Trade Center site. 

In 2012 and 2013, New York City–based photographer Melissa Cacciola created tintype portraits of Mohawk members of Local 40, a New York branch of an international ironworkers’ union. A medium dating to the American Civil War era, tintypes are developed directly onto metal plates, producing a unique image. Through her work, Cacciola created a powerful testament to the shared history of the Mohawk ironworkers and the World Trade Center site. 

Above: Photograph by Damon Winter, New York Times, Redux