MABIE, W.Va. – A local woman, Natasha Zirkle, decided to use her passion for photography to put a spotlight on people who often don’t get enough recognition–blue collar workers.
“We were having an addition built on our house, and I guess it was just watching the conditions that the workers came in, from extreme cold–that most of us would hermit inside–to extreme heat,” said Zirkle, “I just kind of looked around and thought, these guys are really under-appreciated–and not just construction workers, but blue collar men in general.”
Blue collar pride to me is not being ashamed of what you do. It doesn’t matter if you pick up trash for a living. It doesn’t matter if you build houses or if you’re on Wall Street. All these jobs are completely important and they all work together to run the nation”Natasha Zirkle, Photographer
Zirkle said she decided then to start a photography project to highlight the work that comes from blue collar workers.
“I don’t know that around here blue collar people are undervalued much, but in bigger cities, I think sometimes people think that if you don’t have a college education, you weren’t smart enough to cut it, and that’s not true,” said Zirkle.
She started by deciding which occupations she wanted to include and then began making phone calls. Zirkle visited a wide variety of career fields, from police officers to coal miners to mechanics. She said one of the hardest places to get into was the coal mines.
“My husband said I would never get underground, and I did,” she laughs, “It’s kind of like an underground city. It’s nothing like you would expect.”
Zirkle’s husband is a third generation coal miner, and her dad taught mechanics at a vocational center.
“I always idolized them. I always thought they were tougher, stronger, and neater than anybody else,” she said.
Zirkle wrote and recorded a song about blue collar workers to go along with the video. She said a lot of the lyrics came from the people she photographed.
“The very first line in the beginning of the song, ‘He’s up with the sun, go til he drops…’ That just came to me instantly because that’s just [my friend’s] personality,” said Zirkle, “And he never complained. You could be beyond tired, beyond overworked, and they just keep going.”
Zirkle started doing photography a year and a half ago and has her own small business called Roaring Creek Portraits, but she said this is the first large project she ever did.
“I didn’t make any money off of it. I just did it because I thought it should be done,” said Zirkle, “I want people that go day in and day out and they put everything into what they do…that they’re not unnoticed, that I appreciate you and others appreciate you, and that what you do really matters.
“Blue collar pride to me is not being ashamed of what you do. It doesn’t matter if you pick up trash for a living. It doesn’t matter if you build houses or if you’re on Wall Street. All these jobs are completely important and they all work together to run the nation”