Three subjects in their individual spaces. These pictures are from a project I’m doing about disappearing crafts, once commonplace skills which have either been displaced by industrialisation or no longer attract an economical demand. I’m aware of the implications of self-plagiarisation so these three pictures have been taken during my time on this particular module, not retrieved from older work. They’re an integration of my ‘personal’ work and my ‘college’ work.
Making the arrangements to take the photographs is one of the most awkward aspects; aligning people’s diaries involves a fair bit of adjustment. But once people have committed I’ve found that they are quite cooperative.
These three subjects are certainly in their individual spaces; they are surrounded – even hemmed in – by the evidence of their activities and enthusiasms. Most of the people share an intriguing characteristic, surrounded as they are by masses of materials and equipment they keep one tiny area of workspace clear; this is where the making happens.
The viewer has to trust the presenter of the work – that’s me, the photographer – to the extent that my assertions concerning the subjects are fundamentally true. I have not placed some random individual in the setting while the craftsperson was out making a cup of tea, nor contrived the whole thing as a composite!
Heather makes clay pipes, the kind in common use until cigarettes and wood pipes took over. They range from the simple bowl-and-stem design to rather elaborate carved faces, even fictional scenes. The pipes are mold made in a single block. They are mainly used in period films such as Downton Abbey and Taboo but a recent order for 200 pipes came from a masonic organisation. This was an interior picture without the benefit of any natural light. It’s lit with a single softbox to her left. The foreground remains in focus despite its close proximity because I used a tilt lens.
Natalie is a chemist and this apparatus is assembled in the kitchen of her small terraced house. The equipment is essentially a sophisticated still operating in a high vacuum to produce stannous chloride of extremely high purity. She sells this compound to electronics manufacturers – it’s used in making screens. Again, an interior photograph lit with windowlight and a little flash to highlight the glassware.
Phil’s business is planes – not the airborne type but the woodwork ones. The block, blade and wedge are all handmade and the finished product sells to customers worldwide. These tools are an absolute delight to hold – perfect forms, perfectly made – and I imagine they are very satisfying to use. Windowlight to Phil’s right, a 6ft reflector to fill the shadows to his left side and a touch of flash to lift what would otherwise have been a rather dingy upper-left corner