My experience of walking down the interior emergency-exit stairway in the south leg of the St. Louis Gateway Arch (a descent of 630 feet from the newly joined keystone at the top), is still a strong memory from one of many job site visits my brother and I made to the landmark with my father, while it was under construction. Remembering that day inside the Arch probably has more impact now than it did when I was actually experiencing it as a teenager.
A series of visits to the studio & darkroom of Mr. Robert Arteaga and his two sons (the official Gateway Arch photographers) was the next step … after years of watching dad take our family photos … and those visits propelled me and my first 35mm camera along a course in photography that eventually put me where I am today.
Truth be told, “a simple and inexpensive hobby” was the untruth I read in the Encyclopedia Britannica as I searched for something to do; some fresh new interest to pursue. The decision to select photography as my hobby landed me in debt instantly (several weeks of allowance), and kept me there for many, many years to come. My love of photography truly began as a teenager and painting a house one summer as a junior-high student, I managed to save money for my first 35mm camera – a Canon FX with nothing more than a standard 50mm lens. A basement darkroom followed shortly thereafter, and I was on my way. Dabbling in 8mm movie-making was a minor sidebar, but it helped me enter the realm of digital video later on.
My father was a general superintendent (in the office) or chief estimator for general contractors in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, which must have contributed to my desire to become an architect. That never happened, obviously, but interest in Dad’s work and the buildings he built kept me fascinated with the architecture/design, engineering, and construction industries and helped me develop a comfort level when on-site in those unique (and sometimes dangerous) work environments.
When I embarked on my professional career in photography, establishing P-Tn (which I originally named Photo-Technique) nearly FIFTY years ago, the standard for construction photographs was 2-1/4 format KODAK film for black & white prints, taken with a heavy & cumbersome camera that required lugging a tripod for almost every shot. Video was really nowhere to be found, and digital imaging of any kind was not an option or even a concept in my wildest imagination; the few computers that existed had virtually nothing to do with photography. All of this was going to change during my lifetime.
The professional standards and practices I worked so hard to learn, personally develop, and felt compelled to bring to the table back then, formed the basis for my new commercial photography business, and are just as important to me today … professional standards and ethics which are now much harder to find being practiced in our modern-day marketplace.
Remember, we’re talking about a time half a century ago…
My very first paying photo assignment involved construction project documentation (of course) and it was completed for the construction company my father worked for (of course), not while building the Gateway Arch, but during his next career move to VP of a general contracting company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On that first ‘gig’ documenting field conditions on a major sewage treatment facility site, I completely forgot to put film in my camera, and had to reshoot everything – immediately! The entire bill for a half day’s work was $44.34.
One of my first truly professional / business construction photography assignment contracts (with no family connections involved) was the Macy’s Department Store being built at the ‘new’ Oak Park Mall, in Overland Park, Kansas … along with a regular diet of pre-construction documentation photography of private property and existing conditions along many, MANY, many, many miles of Kansas City, Missouri Dept. of Public Works Sanitary Sewer or Water Main installation projects, and street improvements.
I have watched as buildings my father built are torn down to make way for new construction, and I’ve felt strangely at home while completing construction photography assignments at treatment plants which he originally built. What’s ‘worse’ is that I am now seeing projects that I personally photographed during construction being demolished for new developments. These are new projects that we might now be documenting with drone aerial technology and photo or video imagery, site monitoring using our webcam progress monitoring systems or security monitoring, or 360-degree panoramic images throughout the interior. Aerial photography has been an important of our services from the beginning; this 2013 write-up in Kansas Magazine highlights some of that portion of our history. The technological changes that have spanned my career are mind-blowing – photography is so very far advanced beyond where it was when I began shooting with that original 35mm Canon FX, processing my own film and developing my black & white prints & enlargements, in a real “darkroom”!
My career in photography has become the greatest mental, physical, and emotional challenge of my life – second only to a lasting marriage that began the same year my business was born. My wife and I have raised a family of six children and eleven grandchildren (at last count). Throughout that long span of time, photography has tested my capabilities at every turn and has also treated me well.
Today, I work alongside my sons, Travis and Tim, as they carry on my profession as their own. They have teamed up to take our business into a new generation of RAPIDLY developing technology, finding innovative solutions for design, engineering, and construction client needs … clearly, life comes full circle.
“Ten thousand” (who’s keeping count?) project site visits later … that day-to-day work has been passed along to Travis & Tim, and a small but talented staff of young up-and-coming professional construction photographers, videographers, and production computer-technicians. As a team, focused on our client base in the greater Kansas City Metro, we now offer remote construction monitoring and time-lapse recordings, site security monitoring, construction site photography or video, drones and 4K aerial imaging, pre-construction video services, owner training recordings, and so much more! P-Tn is also “Your Connection to iPlanTables” … Interactive Large-format Touchscreen Workstations, for all-digital document management in construction, design, engineering, real estate, Fire Marshals & City Planning Departments.
In between my own commercial photography assignments I update & re-write photo/video specifications to reflect new industry standards and techniques, introducing our documentation services to companies wanting to understand professional construction documentation imaging. I meet with industry business professionals who are working to bring the best modern visual records to building & engineering projects. We share solutions to technical issues and help you sort through the confusion. Nearly one hundred years of (combined) field experience ensure that we deliver professional and practical visual documentation solutions to our valued clients throughout the Midwest.
My sons both recognize & demand (of themselves and our staff) the same high level of quality and professionalism that I have worked so hard over the years to keep alive thru P-Tn, in our career of choice – photographic imaging.
What level of visual documentation, photo – digital – video, are you and your project team in need of on your next build? Are you familiar with the wide range of services and solutions we provide? Might we have an opportunity to meet you and discuss how P-Tn can be of service, or simply answer your questions in a phone conversation?
Please don’t hesitate to call, or email our professional staff thru our CONTACT PAGE!
ERIC BERNDT Founder / 913-384-9369 / P-Tn.com