Photographs by Gina LeVay. Foreword by Bonnie Yochelson.
powerHouse Books, New York, 2009. 120 pp., 80 four-color illustrations, 10x11".
Sandhogs are miners 800 feet below the streets of Manhattan, tunneling bedrock to construct the largest unified infrastructure project in New York City history—the 60 mile long City Water Tunnel #3. The future of Gotham depends on the efforts of these unseen miners, as this new water channel will supplement the two existing, decrepit tunnels, preventing a potentially catastrophic water shortage. The imminent completion of the new tunnel will ensure that fresh, clean water continues to flow to every resident of the city. Excavation of CWT#3 began in 1970. For each mile tunneled, approximately one Sandhog has lost his life in a mining related accident. Generations of Sandhogs have accepted this daunting 'man-a-mile' formula as part of the job, but few New Yorkers know about this mammoth excavation—or the story of the Sandhogs themselves.
Sandhogs is an original portal to the unseen characters and systems of underground New York—revealing the essential 'art form' of mining in the modernized city. In 2003 Gina LeVay was granted rare access to photograph the 'hogs,' in the tunnel and at off-site locations. “The Sandhog Project” is a multi-faceted work of photo, video, web, and installation art, which explores the figurative and literal overlay, and mutual dependency of the surface city and this underground world. With the Sandhogs book and accompanying exhibitions, LeVay introduces the public to this vibrant and intricate subculture, bringing their rich, extraordinary, subterranean imagery to the surface for the first time ever.
The three main sections of the tunnel—Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan—will begin activation over the next few years. The tunnel's 40-year journey is coming to an end. Mining has already ceased and concreting has been completed in the areas that LeVay photographed. Soon 1.5 billion gallons of water will flow through the channel daily, delivering water to the entire city—a historic and monumental feat of engineering and a testament to the power of the human spirit.
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