Life working on Great Lakes freighters captured in new MSU photography exhibit

Oct 27, 2015

A new MSU photography exhibit looks at Great Lakes ships from the inside. Current State's Peter Whorf visits the "Iron Hulls and Turbulent Waters" exhibition at the MSU Museum.


The iron ore of northern Michigan has fueled industrial development in the U.S. and beyond for more than a century and a half. Nearly 50-percent of the cargo moving through the Great Lakes is iron ore, the main ingredient needed for the production of steel.

The mighty ships that transport iron ore today are 1,000 feet long and can hold nearly 60,000 tons of ore pellets. Michiganders and visitors alike know that watching one of these behemoths move through lake waters is a sight to behold.

It takes many skilled workers to build these ships and keep them seaworthy. From 1979 to 1985, photographer Jim Brozek worked the repair docks of Milwaukee Harbor’s Jones Island with camera at the ready.  By working alongside the crews, Brozek was able to capture these men and their work in candid and dramatic ways.

"Iron Hulls and Turbulent Waters" is a multi-media exhibit currently at the MSU Museum.

Current State's Peter Whorf met with curator and MSU School of Human Resources and Labor Relations Associate Professor John Beck to take a tour and discuss Brozek’s powerful photos.