More photography homework

posted in: WIP (work in progress) | 26

I know not everyone is interested in my photography learning, let alone my homework assignments, so feel free to skip along…

The homework brief, was ten photographs that tell a story. I could have done the story of making a jacket or of a dressmaker at work or perhaps a fabric shop or market stall. These would have been on-topic, blogwise. But I chose something easier to combine with my 9-5.

My story was One day in the Office – my office – and I found the whole experience very interesting. Maybe I should just say this was first experience of using a non-automatic camera, and I adjusted for depth of field, ISO, white balance and focus. It was hard! Not all the pictures are as crisp as they should be, but I hope they represent the beginning of my learning.

I didn’t aim to get our logo in every photo, but it sort of turned out like that. It’s interesting because once we merge with Genesis Housing (due in April) we will have a new name and logo, and the old signs, lanyards, mugs and coasters will have to go.

  1. It was a Monday and it was snowing. I stood outside the front door of our main office and took pictures of my colleagues arriving for work between 8.20 and 8.30. Many of them looked at me oddly. I don’t normally stand in the snow, first thing in the morning, wearing my earflap hat and a long, white, Uniqlo down coat. Much less taking photos.
1.Going into the office


2. One of my colleagues is always in early, and he drinks his coffee slowly, reading the newspaper. The yellow flowers behind are a decorated wall in our breakout area.

2. Having a coffee


3. This colleague had a desk full of interesting things; a flamingo snow storm, reusable beakers, pot noodles, soya sauce, cutlery, free sample of canned soup, sweeteners, artificial grass, (and unseen in this photograph, a Santa hat). What does your desk say about you? What do you surround yourself with? Do you have a pristine or personalised space? I also liked her  blouse and earrings.

3. Getting down to work


4. These colleagues came to see me in my office, discussing the brochure they had prepared for the MIPIM conference, which I recently attended. She is a published novelist; he is an actor. They both bring a certain extra dimension to our work. I liked the strong colours and contrasts in this photo, and their reading glasses.

4. A small meeting


5. And then it was lunch time. Five men sit having their lunch, looking at the wall. The yellow manifold makes it a bit brighter, but these colleagues choose to eat alone, three listening to music or podcasts, two in the foreground chat a little. I am not judgemental. Often at lunch time I just want to be quiet, and read or listen to something.

5. Lunch time


6. Another meeting – considering templates and standard letters associated with the merger, I think.

Here we have four women in a row, providing a nice counterposition with Image 5, above. The obvious way to take this picture was flat on. But they were widely spaced. I had the idea of shooting them from the side and it came out nicely. I focused on the woman in blue who finds the letter amusing. She has eaten her lunch during the meeting. I liked the variety of hair colours and lengths, the natural beauty of the women, their concentration, and commitment. They are Business Leaders –  responsible for some of our main businesses – in charge of IT transformation; services for homeless families; care and support; and social housing.

6. Review meeting


7. I was interested to see how things were going in the basement. I wondered if I could take a picture with no natural light and I was intrigued. In the basement we have a group of IT developers. Mostly they work for an outside contractor. The mood and feel is different. Whereas we had a girl’s desk in Image 3, here we have a boy’s desk. The Star Wars models caught my eye. I tried to focus on the models with the men in the background, but I ended up focusing on the arm of the foreground chair. I hadn’t really spent anytime in this part of the office before and it was an eye opener for me.

7. Male models

8. This picture is taken in the same basement room. In some ways it is my favourite as it is so grey, and depressing. Look at those files!  Unbelievably this is the “Paperless office project”. I actually laughed. The man wears a cabled jumper and hat. Is that a coincidence?

8. Paperless office project

9. The other area of the office I had never visited before was the smoking area. I am judgemental about smoking actually. But I like the people in this photograph – they are all sociable and good fun. Our smoking area is between this bike shed (we have lots of cyclists) and the bin store. There is a shelter for when it rains. I find the photograph rather humorous. 

9. Smoking!

10. And then it ends, only one photograph left, and it is the reverse of Image 1. My colleague leaves the building, in the snow. I love his reddish hair and russet jumper with a brown scarf, and his hurried, purposeful air, with a slight acknowledgement that his crazy boss is taking pictures.

10. So Long

26 Responses

  1. eimear greaney

    photograph 8 is my favourite. like the grid composition of the background and black of the hat – has a painterly composition (to my mind) – there are some great touches (the star wars figures and the mug with writing) really gives a feel for the place and people

  2. Annie

    I like it when you reference your workplace it’s a glimpse into your world and are interesting. I like how your subjects seem unaware of the camera and wonder how you managed that. I look at the subject matter and can’t analyse the techniques despite my photography course – the know how hasn’t stuck – too many variables. I’ll probably learn more from your posts.

  3. Kerry

    SO interesting. The ten photos as a unit tell a story. I like how that continuity of story keeps the viewer looking, regardless of how well you have managed the photography. Number 8 stands out not just because of the grey on grey, but because it tells a story in itself. I don’t think the irony of the ‘paperless office’ is lost on the viewer. Also I was really struck by how everyone you photographed looks so pensive, even those in conversation.

  4. Chris

    It tells an interesting story of your office and I like the entering/exiting pictures used as bookends. My one thought throughout was that they lack some contrast in the lighting… the faces are mostly in shadow. My favourites are your colleague reading his paper.. I like the composition and also the paperless project… the scale of the shelf against the person sitting, as well as the repeating pattern of the files.

  5. Bonnie

    Really nice. You are mastering the technical aspects well. My favorites are the man reading the paper/drinking coffee and the “paperless project.” I love the pattern of the files in the cubbies.

  6. Ellen Miller

    Wow! You’ve made great strides in your photography: the focus, f stops, the white balance, etc. I’m so impressed! and envious… I keep planning to take a photography class and a PhotoShop class and have done either. Wicked Cool!

  7. mrsmole

    Making yourself have a different eye for each of these photographs really shows the diversity of perspective. We all got to share in the life at the office through your pictures of quiet and animated scenes and it was nice of your friends to let you snap them doing normal things without pulling a goofy face.

    • fabrickated

      It feels a bit voyeuristic, even in my own workplace. It does require a “stranger” to do you a favour, and it is always hard to ask for help. At least I have been able to say that I am a beginner so people are quite generous in helping me with my learning.

  8. ceci

    The technical stuff escapes me, but I love the story telling aspect. I’m imagining how different a reception I might have gotten photographing my workplace…..relationship building counts!


    • fabrickated

      You raise a vital issue. I would say nine out of ten people really dislike being photographed. They somehow feel you are taking something away from (of) them. Even for my book project I am having a problem convincing even close family and friends to model for me. It is the fear of exposure I think.

  9. Bunny

    I took a course last year. Managing all the factors is still a challenge and I’ve taken a pledge to practice and study more. I can see where you’ve focused and how the clarity recedes as the subjects do, something you and I know is the goal for most photos. You are doing great. I enjoy this photographic journey you are taking us on. Keep it up!

  10. Linda (ACraftyScrivener)

    I expected to gloss over this… (no sewing) but it was fascinating! I do love a sticky beak into other people’s lives ?

    • fabrickated

      Thanks Linda – what a nice comment! To be honest I had no idea if my project would be of interest, but as I found it intriguing myself I thought others might. Just doing the project forced me to go and have a better look at a couple of things I had never investigated before, and that’s how I got my interesting picture of the paperless office project. The camera is sort of making me more curious about really looking at things.

  11. Kay Alexander

    Kate, I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb, here. (Of course you don’t have to publish this) Perhaps the pensive looks that you captured were due in part to the subjects not wanting to be photographed. I didn’t read through the text, but did you ask permission beforehand? And if so, did you let them know that their photos would be posted on your blog?

    Btw. My favourite was the stormtrooper and Star Wars figures on the desk.

    • fabrickated

      Hi Kay, and thank you for your comments. You raise some very important issues.

      One colleague was not happy with me publishing their image, and told me off; therefore I regret taking one of the pictures. Of course I said I would remove it but they said it was done now, so leave it. It has made me think again.

      I did not ask permission as I stood outside the office because I wanted to capture people coming and going (action shots). I did ask permission of all those I photographed inside the office itself, yes. However I am senior and it is possible that people did not find it easy to say no. I have shared the pictures with the staff since publication and lots of people at work have found them interesting. I took another 30 or so, most of which I just sent to the person or people concerned.

      As you probably know while it is legal to take images in public places, and to publish them without permission, obviously we would want to make people comfortable with their image being used. It is a fraught issue as most people, me included, dislike being photographed and often feel that pictures don’t properly reflect who we are. Fairly recently at a meeting, against my will (when asked, I said no) I was videoed and the video was widely posted but I wasn’t able to prevent it. In the end I have personally come to the view that we are on CCTV several times a day, and in other people’s photographs, and the internet makes many images available, so trying to control one’s own image is not feasible.

      Finally on the pensive looks – I didn’t want people to look at the camera, or to pose or smile.

  12. Jennifer Miller

    Oh these are wonderful! You’re making progress, and I love that you take us along with you. My absolute favorite is the man with coffee, but also the laughing woman in bright blue dress. Each shot tells a story, doesn’t it. So very good.

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