In our digital world run in by the Internet and Artificial Intelligence, we are apt to forget that a great deal of the sweat and tears behind the functional machines in our lives remain unseen – hidden behind the walls of industrial factories stretching far and wide throughout the US. The examples are endless: the cars we drive; the refrigerators, washing machines, boilers, and broilers in our kitchens; not to mention our garden implements, and myriad other household items. Of course all these as mentioned compile only a small subset of the industrial production landscape that inevitably makes our lives easier. Indeed, factory dynamics reflect another world – one that is simply fascinating to the eye if presented by an industrial photographer that knows all about imagery and building specialized image libraries.
We spoke to Brett Lemon, a noted and prolific commercial photographer in Raleigh NC to get the inside scoop as to why this aspect of photography is in such high demand, and why it commands finely attuned skills to capture the right moods and image-induced emotions. The chat was not only illuminating it was quite mind boggling when boiled down to the nuts and bolts of the matter (excuse the pun). Brett’s insight was deep, notwithstanding his experience covered the region from Raleigh in North Carolina to Roanoke in Virginia. The following captures most of his enlightening description.
Industrial environments are hard-core, to say the least: they represent blue-collar America in its best light, toiling over churning production lines with spanners, wrenches, screwdrivers, and hammers to keep the wheels of commerce turning. Factories in America are integrated with fire, kilns, stark brick walls, sheets of metal, iron and alloy ingots ranging in color from dull grey to brassy gold. Also, forklifts, steel-structured warehouse shelving loaded with parts big and small – all overlaid with billowing steam, and the perspiration streaming from the pores of factory workers.
It’s the task of the industrial photographer to extract the most compelling images – the ones that capture the reality of the most stressful moments; the furrows creasing brows of grizzled individuals that mark the years of dedication to the production line; the extreme temperatures endured every day no matter what the climate outside is like – and then, of course, there’s the machinery. The machinery may be modern or antiquated, gargantuan in size or minuscule, simple or intricate, new or worn-out, active or idle, manually operated or automatic. The industrial photographer is inevitably contracted by the manufacturer’s management to capture the moods, the dynamics, and the personnel inside the business with standout brand imagery as the underlying motivation. This requires him or her to be adept at shooting close-ups as well as macro-photography, which in turn involves skillful adaptation of macro lenses and accessories, ring flashes, comprehensive lighting gear and all the other latest-technology equipment needed for high-end shooting. Here’s the bottom line: in any factory setting geared to modern-day USA, the raw and gritty lives alongside the slick & smooth - sometimes with a facade. This implies there’s importance attached to depicting glaring contrasts inside typical factory businesses as essential ingredients of any advertising image portfolio.
Finally, from Brett’s viewpoint looking at things through Raleigh NC colored lenses: great industrial photographers emerge from a versatile professional photography background. It is not uncommon to see the best industrial-image-experts link back to photojournalism, architectural shot makers, or even those whose skills were honed in fashioning portraits. In almost all cases, in this somewhat unique but extremely profitable branch of photography, the best have been apprenticed to dedicated industrial photographers for a reasonable tenure before breaking out on their own.
So if you are a factory owner anywhere in the North Carolina or Roanoke areas, and you want the soot, fire, and heat of your facility to shine through in black-and-white or color imagery, contact…
Brett Winter Lemon