‘….Yes that’s perfect! Just move the leg round a little, and bend the knee…..’
The leg was only fifteen inches long and detached from the rest of the body. It was a wooden leg. In the background was a workbench filled with various other body parts. A head on a post, two arms and the other leg. Marionettes reclined on a table to the right, and a small figurine sat to the left. Several sets of wooden beady eyes peered at me. You could be forgiven for thinking I was in Geppetto’s workshop, but I was actually in the office of North London Puppet Maker, Catherine Thomas.
The brief I had set myself was simple. To capture a series of portraits of an array of interesting people working in different trades and occupations in and around the capital. I had clear idea of the lighting I wanted use, and the mood I hoped to create, ending with a set of portraits that hopefully would show a more personal side of the people photographed. What I discovered was that even in an increasingly competitive economy, that there are still many people out there, with small or independent businesses, remaining; surviving; and thriving; doing traditional and creative jobs, that they love and are passionate about, and that are so important to help keep London the rich and diverse place it is!
So, back to the wooden leg.............
After only a short telephone conversation and several emails we booked a date for the shoot, and I arrived at Catherine's Studio. There was no chance for a reccy, so I didn't know exactly what to expect. I did know, the workshop was in a warehouse, so ceilings would be high and setting up, and working with lights wouldn't be a problem. I was also confident, that there would be plenty of interesting props on hand to use. And there were! Anywhere and everywhere. It was organising them and knowing what to include or leave out, in the time we had available which was the challenge. Trying to tell the whole story of Catherine's work, from the initial idea, through to the finished puppet, in one shot. With the sketches placed to her right , and the lamp highlighting the legs arms on the bench behind, and the eerie almost human nature of the finished puppets dotted around the space, all the elements were there. Of course Catherine was central to the picture, sitting relaxed with her leg, clearly at home in her environment! Surrounded by drawings, photos, wooden body parts and paper mache heads, I knew straight away that this was the shot!
You can see the full series of all 12 'People at Work' portraits in the gallery link below (or just click on any of the images in this blog )!