002 — What's happening with "Makers"

002 — What's happening with "Makers"

You'd be forgiven for not knowing what "Makers" is — my stalled-but-not-quite-at-a-standstill project exploring the work of small, independent crafts people. Nothing new has been posted since late 2022 after I started taking pictures for The Mulberry — a fine-dining restaurant in Falmouth. My time there produced the behind-the-scenes shots of a high-level kitchen at work that I had hoped for, but also led me down the rabbit hole that is food photography (more on this another time).

With a fresh start — both here on the new site, and with how I'm approaching this work — I thought it would be best to take stock of what I've got, where the project currently is and where I may take it.

This project — inadvertently — began in March 2022 with surfboard shaper and friend Ollie Cooper, who welcomed me into his workspace to practise my photography. After a fun few days I decided that I wanted to make more of the time taking photos than simply sharing the images on social media. I interviewed Ollie — my writing was rough after years making factual, concise notes around software development, so an essay was beyond my abilities — and posted the lightly-edited transcript alongside the images. And so began a self-assigned project, initially to flesh out my portfolio but quickly taking on a life of its own.

The camera — and talk of a larger project — seemed to lower people's guard and allow my (then) introverted self the chance to spend hours talking with, learning from and getting to know people who I otherwise might have only said a dozen words to. On the back of ten years software development — six of them working remotely — it was a wonderful salve to the cynicism and isolation I had grown accustomed to. My potential career change was initiated by burnout, but motivated by a desire for human connection once more.

Exploring the work of other photographers (again, more on that another time) pointed towards the relationship between subject and photographer — good or bad — that's required to make a compelling image. Until my time at The Mulberry, I had only spent enough time with Ollie to get over that initial awkwardness caused by a relative-stranger pointing a camera at you whilst you work.

Service at The Mulberry

Harry Cartwright and Jay Brady opened The Mulberry only six months before I started talking to them about the project. I had wanted a restaurant to feature in Makers because I think a commercial kitchen creating food at a high level embodies what the project explores.

Instead I found a slightly different, better story with Harry & Jay. Once again it's a case of "more for another time"; indicative of how much has changed and how little I've written about it!

The synopsis is that I spent over a year learning food photography, changing my techniques, equipment and workflow to suit this genre of photography I had never before explored. Meanwhile my Makers project, and the story of how The Mulberry came to be fell aside whilst focus stacking, colour grading and retouching came to the fore.

So here I am, a little over two years since starting this project still with the only the component parts — several thousand images that might tell the story I hope they tell. I feel that Ollie's is still the strongest standalone photo story. Due in part to the extra time I spent with him, but also that the interview format provided a strong way to summarise and share all the conversations Ollie and I had whilst I was photographing him work. It was a more honest, collaborative option than the write-ups I've published since; and a format I'll be returning to.

The images from each Maker are currently organised separately as Capture One Sessions, but I think the next step should be to collate the images and start the edit for the project as a whole, not just each Maker. Although each set probably needs another round of cuts too. You still have to get it right in camera, but I've learnt that a sequence of images — and thus the project those sequences become — succeeds or fails in the edit.

Adding some extra mental wrangling to the equation, I've just completed a couple of days with Native Grain, a bakery in Truro. They've been inundated with photographers and videographers since their launch in November — such is the draw of their workspace (and pastries) — that giving them some space to relax before yet another photographer invaded their work was important to me.

We spoke a fair amount about the idea this project aims to explore, and it was again a wonderful example of how this project is a collaboration — they had just as many thoughts and opinions on the narrative as I did. As an experiment, I used both digital and film for these photo shoots and I'll be interested to see if there is any meaningful difference is how the different mediums convey the story.

Baker shaping pastries at Native Grain in Truro
A preview from my time with Native Grain.

So what can you expect from me over the next few weeks? I'll be editing — and perhaps taking another pass at the colour grading of — Ollie's story; as it makes most sense as a foundation for the rest of the project. It was before and it is now. I'll be digging into the photos from The Mulberry and sharing some of my editing process and sequencing decisions. I need to work out the interview for Native Grain once the film has been developed and I've reviewed the images. I've also got a good amount to share about two photographers whose work is heavily inspiring this project, workflows, equipment, and more.

In short, I've got plenty to say about Makers.