This week, our Americans at Work photo essay features images of Port Houston, the busiest port for deep-draft vessels in the United States, made by photographer Daniel Kramer: “The Port includes both public and private terminals along the Houston Ship Channel. Geographically, the ship channel begins five miles east of Houston,Texas, and runs through one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world, then terminates 52 miles later in the Gulf of Mexico. A 2015 study by Martin Associates showed that the port impacts 2.7 million jobs in the U.S. economy.
I accompanied one vessel from a dock in the upper reaches of the ship channel to the Gulf of Mexico—a journey of some seven hours. It was truly awesome to see a vessel the length of a football field maneuvered so effortlessly down such a narrow channel—at night. At the end of the trip and while still underway in open ocean, we climbed down the side of the ship onto one of the Houston Pilot Boats where I spent one very sleepless, seasick night. The Pilots are aided in their navigation by one of the 50 members of Houston-Galveston division of the United States Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service.
For me, part of the allure of photographing workers of the Houston Ship Channel was my appreciation for Mark Twain, who was a Pilot on the Mississippi River, and Sterling Morrison, guitarist for the Velvet Underground, who spent time as a Tugboat Captain on the Houston Ship channel. After 10 weeks, I feel that I am just getting going. Every shoot I learn more and more leads open up. Almost to a person people were friendly and helpful and proud to show off their work and their ship channel. I’d like to thank those who graciously allowed me to photograph a little bit of their lives.”