Photographing the Cabinetmaker

Continuing the theme of photographing genuine craftspeople in their work environments I took the opportunity to visit Paul, a skilled craftsman, a Cabinetmaker,  working from his garden workshop in the small village of Thurne in the English County of Norfolk, UK.

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It was a very frosty morning in December when I arrived at Paul’s historic home. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky but it was very chilly!  The visit had been planned but I hadn’t seen the space Paul works from, for all I knew it could be cluttered or untidy, cramped or dark or full of power tools. These situations can be tricky to photograph aesthetically.

gjn_0152We chatted over a warming cup of coffee before venturing around the back of the house into the workshop. I was in for a treat, as I stepped into the space the sunlight filtered through the window behind Paul’s uncluttered, tidy workbench. The ambience of the space was more than I could have wished for.

gjn_9993Positioning Paul between me and the light coming from the window ensured I got the soft, backlight I love to work with. As a skilled cabinetmaker Paul uses vintage hand tools in his craft. As he worked on the wood with these tools I captured moments as the particles of sawdust almost glittered as they floated into the air.

To avoid dark corners in some shots I used strobe light directed into them and kicked a little reflector behind the subject. I also tried to counterbalance the window light by experimenting with the added glow of an electric heater almost out of the frame.

For more small business, craftspeople images see here.

Indian Families at home in the UK

The circle of care in Indian families embraces all the generations as I discovered during a visit to a friend.

I first met Vinod Ravi when he became my lodger. I had moved back to UK, bought a house and decided to rent out a room. Originally from Hydrabad in India, Vin left his home and family to study and make a career in IT in the UK. We got on very well. He introduced me to the customs and cultures of Indian families and likewise I educated him in the British life-roast beef and yorkshire puddings, local beers and gigs with local bands.

Fast forward eight years and in that time I have been to his wedding in India and met his charming Indian family, Sravanthi and son Dhruvan. They have both worked tirelessly in their jobs and managed to have time to bring up their son now three years old. Their determination and work ethic paid off, they now live in a spacious modern house in a town on the outskirts of London. A remarkable progression from a humble room in my terraced house in Suffolk.

Despite their busy lives this family hold Indian family values and traditions very seriously. Although they have become westernised they have not let go of their culture and traditions. Like many Indian families they wear traditional Indian dress for celebrating festivals and blessings and extended family come to visit from India to give a helping and supporting role to the young family and to celebrate new experiences with them.

On a recent trip to UK I stopped off to visit Vin and his family at their new home. Here I discovered the whole family, both sets of parents were visiting from India. Both mothers were wearing colourful Saris and welcomed my wife and I warmly with a feast of traditional home cooked Indian food. Dhruvan instantly called my wife Auntie which won her over! My mind was full of the images I could see in front of me. The family, the extended family, the bonding, the traditions, the colour, the lifestyle. Alas, I had to be on a plane to return to the US.

Back home I couldn’t let it go. I called Vin to see if there was the possibility to do a photoshoot with the whole family if I could get back there in time before the parents left. They would be delighted to, he said. I searched for available flights, expecting to find prices way to high to accommodate my last minute whim. Then I found it…a very reasonable flight and I would be flying back to London to following weekend.

Landing in London on Sunday at 9 am local time I took the train to Vin’s home. By 2.30 that afternoon I was photographing the family. My focus was family lifestyle, centred around the child. The interaction of care, love, learning, teaching and togetherness with his family were the concepts I wanted to capture. The ethnicity of this family added another dimension to my usual family ensembles. Here, we can see a different ethnicity and culture living in a western society, embracing and sharing the lifestyle .

That evening, the photoshoot over, once again I was well nourished with the delicacies of Vin’s mother’s Indian dishes. I was given a bed for the night and slept very soundly. Early the next morning I was back at the airport for a flight back to the US.

36 hours flying, 3 hours photography and 24 hours in the UK. Was it worth it? With my belly full and my thirst for compelling images quenched I would say, yes!

Link here to view more childhood imagery with adventure and play as the theme.