Often times, while I am shooting for an industrial client on location, I carry an auxiliary camera with me. As I move from location to location within the facility, photographing machines, operations and other imperatives from a provided shot list, I keep an eye out for interesting industrial details that have artistic potential. I shoot those with my backup camera.
Serene sunsets, tranquil landscapes and “perfect time of day” nature views are available to anyone who wants to photograph them. A park pass may be purchased or a back road taken to get to the edge of the water, but access to nature’s beauty is really available to everyone. This lies in contrast to an industrial facility which is usually a business with proprietary systems and machinery inside. I almost always need clearance to get in to do the photography, (a contact, an appointment or a signed check in-check out form filled out).
The products they produce and how they are turned out is top secret in their field. Having access to the tools of the particular manufacturer I am working in is a privilege. So, unlike the nature photographer, who has free access to their subjects, I need a pass to even get in. (I don’t mean to compare nature photography vs industrial photography- apples & oranges!)
It’s all in the cropping!
These “grab shots”, have little or nothing to do with what the marketing person or owner of the business has on their shot list. (I have however, after the job is finished, interested them in acquiring the files to make prints for their lobby or hallway.) They are quick captures of anything that hits my eye. I don’t crop in camera. I simply get the shots as I’m walking to my next location on the list.
In post production, after all the main images are prepared and finalized, I open the added shots of machines, workers, textures and products. I look to see where the art might be. The first adjustment I do is crop. By cropping in on the image, I isolate and place focus on the artistic potential. Below is the uncropped raw image after I converted it to black & white.
Is it art?
I’m not sure if the final outcome is art. I do think that the process is a way of keeping connected to what catches my eye. It pays attention to that process and carries it though to the final presentation (if there is a final presentation). How these images are framed, matted, and hung has much to do with whether or not it is art.
Sunsets and mountains are breathtaking, but if I keep my eyes open and attentive, a greasy old iron riveting machine can be beautiful too.