We are the Other - Dan & Melanie, South Minneapolis, Minnesota (2012)
Melanie and Dan are both small business owners on the same block. She “slings coffee” and he’s a body man. When I asked her to suggest someone she didn’t know well to be photographed with, she thought of Dan, who comes in once in a while for coffee. When the three of us sat in his small office and discussed the chalkboard questions, much of their conversation turned to the financial and aesthetic challenges of their respective trades.
Dan was hooked when he drove his dad’s Peugeot 404. That was back home in Jerusalem when he was seven. He then knew he wanted to work on cars the rest of his life. He was sixteen when he bought his first car, a blue 1973 BMW. German cars has been his specialty ever since.
After learning the trade from an uncle, he opened an auto body shop in Jerusalem 24 years ago that he still owns. He then started coming to Minnesota on vacations to visit relatives, but on one of the visits he fell in love with a woman, who was also born in Jerusalem, and decided to stay. They now have five children and he goes back home every couple of years.
Dan started working at Mill City Auto Body nine years ago near the corner of 38th and Chicago. I asked him if working on cars is different here than back home. “We did real body work there,” he replied. “Here they just change things.’ He explained that body parts were often not available there so he would have to, say, make a fender out of sheet metal, while here you just order the part. He was more of an artist then.