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Retired Ironworker Photographed City Skyline from the Sky



Retired ironworker and photographer Greg Harris immortalized St. Louis landmarks from steel beams high above the city. Harris, who described his pictures as "the St. Louis skyline from the St. Louis skyline," was rarely without his camera during his 20 years as a member of St. Louis Ironworkers Local 396.

His photographs provide an eagle's-eye view of the city's skyscrapers, with the Gateway Arch and both Busch Stadiums in the background. He added the human element by shooting pictures of his colleagues sitting and standing on beams.

"There are no words to describe the wonder of being up on the iron or how incredible it was to look out and see these guys suspended from nowhere with rooftops far below," he said. "Hardly anyone gets to see the city from that perspective, and that's what I tried to capture in my photographs."

Harris, 50, also has an extensive collection of photographs he took of the old and new Busch Stadium. He has an ethereal image of an empty old stadium in a ghostly mist. Photos were taken in color and in black and white, in the dark of night and in the bright sunshine. He captured various stages of demolition of the old and the building of the new stadium.

Since moving to Lake Sherwood two years ago, his interest in photography has expanded to include rural wildlife, landscapes and landmarks.

Trips to places such as Hawaii and Africa yielded close-up photographs of exotic flowers not found in the St. Louis area. Included in Harris' collection are photographs of little-known slot canyons in New Mexico.

Harris recently won honorable mention for two photos he entered in the Irv Shankman Memorial Photography contest at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His work has been exhibited at various buildings and galleries in St. Louis, including the Metropolitan Life building and the Feldacker Collection of Labor and Industrial Art in Clayton. He sells his photographs at shows and venues and on his website at frame22.com, where his work can be viewed.

Harris will be among the exhibiting artists at the annual New Melle Art Show and Reception, set for Aug. 24 at the New Melle Lakes Golf Course and Banquet Center in Wentzville. A cross section of his work will be on view, and he will be available to chat with guests.

A world traveler, Harris has taken photographs in Paris; Sydney, Australia; and East Africa. He grew up in north St. Louis County, one of six children of Ira Harris, a pipefitter, and Rita Harris, a homemaker. He graduated from Ritenour High School and studied for a year at UMSL. He became interested in photography on a tour of Europe and East Africa the summer after his year at UMSL.

Leading the trip was Gary Tweston of Millstadt, a wildlife biology and photography teacher, and author Dwight Guerrant of Union, a science and photography teacher. Harris credited Tweston and Guerrant as well as international photographer Lucian Niemeyer of Santa Fe, N.M., with being generous with their time and knowledge of photography.

"I've been fortunate to work with these photographers, but the best teacher is the college of hard knocks," he said.

He still uses film, relying on a 25-year-old Minolta with manual settings, but said he realizes the day is coming when he converts to digital.

Harris likened photography to fishing.

"I could talk all day about the one that got away," he said.

He is working on a book that will include photographs and stories of the membership of Local 396. It will include ironworkers' stories, a general history of the trade and a profile of its tools and machinery.

Harris is as inspired by the rural ambiance of Warren County as by the view high above St. Louis. He is captivated by ever-changing nature scenes.

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