Despite a tumultuous year that made traveling to jobsites difficult at best, ENR readers still came through—and then some—by submitting more than 900 entries to our annual photo contest. This year’s 41 winning photographs reveal the drama, effort and grandeur behind work that the construction industry performs day in and day out, rain or shine, pandemic or not.
Tackling the huge task of reviewing the entries were judges Emell Derra Adolphus, editor-in-chief of POB and SNIPS magazines; Joel Becks, director of safety for Herrero Builders; Ted Jackson, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist; Amy Lebowsky, web design manager with BNP Media; and Pam Radtke Russell, ENR’s deputy editor and news director.
Jackson kicked off the half-day virtual judging session by advising the panel to look for photos that were more than aesthetically pleasing—photos with content that also told a story. “I’ve never judged a contest over Zoom, and I was surprised how fun and efficient it was,” Jackson says of the experience.
Adolphus, who like other judges has been on “many, many jobsites,” says that cameras aren’t always around to capture the key moments that happen every day. “Innovation in the building trades isn’t always pretty, but the hard work of the men and women who make it happen every day really is something beautiful. That’s what I think these photos really celebrate,” he says.
The choices were often difficult, Lebowsky adds, “with so many incredible entries, even in a pandemic. But it was also a wonderful view into the world of large-scale engineering projects that I otherwise would not appreciate so fully and from such a human level.”
The ENR Year in Construction Photo Contest kicked off in 2002. Each cycle, the editors share caption-writing duties and reach out to photographers for the backstory about how each photo was taken. Russell, who has written plenty of captions, participated as a judge for the first time this year. “I was amazed at how quickly we winnowed down the choices and came to a clear consensus,” she says. Many of the winners were chosen unanimously. “The photos that won spoke to us through their imagery and humanity.”
Five cover-shot finalists were posted on ENR.com so readers could make the final choice in an online poll that attracted almost 9,300 votes. The winner, presented in gatefold to preserve its wide aspect ratio, received more than 50% of the votes.