BATH — The portraits – and the stories behind those portraits — of Bath Iron Works shipbuilders will be featured at an exhibit in the State House in Augusta.

Southgate Faces is a project created by Hopper McDonough and Heather Perry that combines stunning portraits of shipyard workers taken outside of the company’s southern gate with audio interviews of the workers, who spoke about their trades. The images and audio from Southgate Faces can be viewed online at

The pair have created 65 “sound portraits” of shipyard employees so far. For Perry, the sound portraits offer a unique glimpse into the workers of Bath Iron Works.

“For security reasons and all kinds of other things, Bath Iron Works is not exactly an open gate. While we all in Bath and Brunswick may ride by and say, ‘I wonder what’s going on in there? I wonder who these people are?,’ there’s nothing you can do about it unless you take some undertaking, which we did,” said Perry.

The project was first unveiled in 2017. It featured prominently in exhibits at the Maine Maritime Museum and the Portland Public Library, but interest quieted down in 2018, Perry said.

Nearly two years after the portraits got their initial showing at Maine Maritime Museum, the striking pieces have taken on a second life, sparking renewed media interest in the project and praise from unexpected corners. Mike Rowe, who came to fame as the host of the Discovery Channel series “Dirty Jobs” and has continued to emphasize the importance of the trades to his millions of followers, took to social media to complement the creators.


“This is a terrific project. Congratulations to Heather Perry and Hopper McDonough for making it happen. In much the way we tried on Dirty Jobs, these two have found a way to portray working men and women precisely as they found them. I admire that,” stated Rowe.

“It was a huge boost for us. That was pretty exciting,” said Perry.

Perry said that the authenticity of the images and audio is what makes them resonate with people.

“I think there is a naturalness to the portrait that people have embraced. They’re not just people staring at the camera smiling. They’re people that are inhabiting the thought space that we have asked them to inhabit when I’m making the portrait,” said Perry. “I think there is something that is registered when a person is thinking, speaking about a particular thing that is important or meaningful to them. I think that comes across in the photograph.”

Perry credits the works’ resurgent popularity to being displayed at the Frontier café in Brunswick for two-and-a-half months, where they were introduced to new eyes.

“It just got so much great exposure there. So many people saw it,” said Perry.


Perry said it was not long after that BJ McCollister, chief of staff to Maine Senate president, reached out to her and McDonough to see if he could have some of the portraits hung in his office in the State House. McCollister immediately saw a political connection in the portraits.

“The moment I saw them, I actually said to my partner, ‘These are the people that we fight for every day at the State House, and I would love to bring those folks into the State House,” said McCollister.

McCollister said that he chose to hang three of the portraits in his office as a reminder to the staff and the many people who come in and out of the office about who they need to look out for.

“We wanted that reminder every day, that we’re fighting for the working men and women of this state,” he said.

The portraits have already made an impact on some people in Augusta.

“One of the shipbuilders who had become my friend as a result of this project actually passed away last week very unexpectedly,” said Perry. “So when I was deciding which portraits to bring to the State House, I had decided I would make his one of them.”


It turned out that the shipbuilder’s aunt worked at the State House, and watched when his portrait was hung in McCollister’s office.

“It was a very special and touching thing,” said Perry.

The portraits are slated to hang in the State House for the next two years.

“It’s grown legs as we say and it’s enjoyed a resurgence, and we’re trying to surf that wave as long as we can,” said Perry.

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