Informal portraiture in the workplace using available light
AUTO RESTORATIONS WORKSHOP, STEWART STREET, CHRISTCHURCH 2009–2012
When shooting informal portraiture avoid distraction from the most important purpose—getting photographs. These photos were shot and photo composites produced 2009–2012, they offer a historical profile of Auto Restorations during that time soon after Allan Wylie stepped up from the Mechanical Shop floor to the role of General Manager. Pictures of their employees on their redesigned website, and capabilities brochure in print helped Auto Restorations transform from a faceless company to people that their customers can relate to. The highly specialised, high value personal service that Auto Restorations’ workforce offer to customers is an advantage that they have over large companies, their multiple international Concours D’Elegance awards attest to this. Good photos of their skilled workforce reinforce this.
Whether shooting outdoors or indoors, consider using the flash to light the subject. If the available light is insufficient then you need to build up more light until the clearest and best photo is taken. This may involve bouncing flash light up off the ceiling or outdoor canopy. You shouldn’t see light in the final picture—you should see the subject.
Dropping to one knee and shooting up at your subject yields a heroic image.
Visual anthropology: Work method documentary photography
Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures and their development. So it follows that informal portraiture of people going about their tasks, such as these photos of Auto Restorations’ skilled workforce, is besides its marketing communications purpose, anthropology, which is a field that values good, factual photography more than beautiful pictures. In the classic sense the principle is that a moody shot of a mother holding a child will not work, while a picture of an entire family with all their belongings standing before a straw house has a great deal of information.
As an artist I have various goals in mind when I photograph people. I accentuate special characteristics and play with composition, graphic devices and graphic twists such as action in the frame.
As a documentary photographer with an anthropological bent I must capture visually readable, factual data. This assignment for Auto Restorations demonstrates both aspects of my photography.
Trying to understand people gives meaning to the world
Trying to understand people performing work tasks leads to understanding. I took these photographs to talk about and show these people as they were, getting as much information as I could without losing the viewer’s interest. I composed my pictures carefully and waited for special, revealing moments, sometimes shooting in continuous burst mode to capture just the right moment.
Tough shooting situations make war on my photographer’s senses. I must be thinking on several levels all at the same time.
There are times when I might shoot five or six pictures besides the one obvious candidate. This comes from the discipline of what you could call visual anthropology. I haven’t stopped fact hunting or searching for relationships, compositions and visually interesting graphical twists.
The portraits of administrative staff 2009–12
With 26 employees and very low staff turnover, several key people having worked over 20 years for the firm, and several others having clocked up more than a decade’s service, this has resulted in a vast accumulation of broad and deep specialist knowledge and experience.
The restoration of classic vehicles is a “high touch” process managed by Auto Restorations’ administrative staff. When restoring an automobile hidden defects are sometimes found that were not visible on first inspection. If these parts are best replaced, or extensively repaired to guarantee the restoration’s quality, the customer is sent photos and the matter discussed. The decision on how to proceed is then agreed upon in the process. Customers therefore are never faced with unexpected costs when they collect their completed restoration.
“The international renown and recognition that Auto Restorations has earned over the years is due to the exemplary skills, talents and exacting standards of our individual employees…”~Allan Wylie, General Manager 2008–2016
Client: Auto Restorations
Photographer, Graphic designer: Shaun Waugh