Trad­ing places

Pho­to­jour­nal­ist Rob Scott doc­u­mented tra­di­tional crafts that have sur­vived into the mod­ern world for his new book

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The book Crafte­din-Bri­tain is a cel­e­bra­tion of Bri­tain’s sur­viv­ing tra­di­tional crafts and in­dus­tries. I shot images of fas­ci­nat­ing work­places and prac­tices, and Tony Bur­ton wrote de­scrip­tions of them. I met Tony by chance in a won­der­ful old Bris­tol pub about 25 years ago, as I was re­turn­ing from a shoot for The-Ob­server on the au­to­ma­tion of Bri­tain’s light­houses, and he had just com­pleted his 40th book about Bri­tain’s in­dus­trial his­tory. We de­cided to pro­duce a book doc­u­ment­ing the coun­try’s dis­ap­pear­ing in­dus­tries and work­ing prac­tices.

When I was of­fered a job run­ning a large edi­to­rial pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio and Tony was com­mis­sioned to present a se­ries of TV shows, how­ever, we put our book pro­ject on hold. By the time we re­turned to it more than 20 years later, most of the in­dus­tries that we had in­tended to fea­ture had dis­ap­peared.

We re­turned to the pro­ject in 2011 and be­gan pro­duc­ing magazine ar­ti­cles on the sub­jects that we wished to cover in the book – the tra­di­tional crafts, trades and pro­cesses that were still go­ing. It wasn’t un­til 2015 that we signed a con­tract with Blooms­bury to pro­duce Crafte­din-Bri­tain. At that point we had about half of the work com­pleted and had to de­liver all of the pic­tures and words within 12 months. The fi­nal hard­back is 224 pages, and we trav­elled the coun­try to cover more than 25 in­dus­tries, from cider mak­ing to pub sign paint­ing.

Tony and I vis­ited all of the sites to­gether ini­tially. I would then have to go back, ei­ther to pho­to­graph dif­fer­ent stages of a process or to get shots at var­i­ous times of year. With such a range of in­dus­tries to cover, most of the shots had to be re­ac­tive. I of­ten had no idea what I would find un­til I got there, and had to think very quickly to come back with enough strong shots to tell the story.

Most of the peo­ple who showed us around their work­places had no idea

I of­ten had no idea what I would find un­til I got there, and had to think very quickly to come back with enough strong shots to tell the story

what pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy in­volves – they as­sumed I would sim­ply turn up with my cam­era, take a few snaps and be gone within the hour. In re­al­ity I was never at a shoot for fewer than four hours, and they usu­ally lasted for eight or nine.

I trav­elled around with a lot of equip­ment, never know­ing what I would need to get the job done. I’ve been us­ing Nikon for 35 years, and cur­rently shoot with a D5, D4 and D800. I used a vast range of lenses for the se­ries, in­clud­ing a Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8, a 24-70mm f/2.8, a 28mm f/1.4, a 50mm f/1.4, an 85mm f/1.4, a 105mm Mi­cro f/2.8 and an 80-200mm f/2.8. The rear of my car was also jammed with lights, tripods, stands, soft­boxes, dif­fu­sion screens, re­flec­tors, black­outs (for prob­lem win­dow light) and gaffa tape.

Im­pres­sive cast

The pho­to­graphs of the bell-cast­ing re­quired three days of shoot­ing and a lot of ne­go­ti­a­tion to get per­mis­sion. The first day be­came a recce for me, al­though it was all Tony needed to get his in­ter­views and de­scrip­tive notes. I worked out when the next big cast­ing was tak­ing place and the shots I would need, and then went on to ne­go­ti­ate where I would be al­lowed to stand and where I could place lights. I re­turned a week later to shoot the ac­tual cast­ing of the bells and then for a third time five days later once the bells had cooled down suf­fi­ciently in the sand to be raised and freed from their moulds [1].

I have trav­elled and worked in more than 35 coun­tries, but to pho­to­graph the amaz­ingly rich and of­ten hid­den in­dus­trial and cul­tural her­itage of my own coun­try was both im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing, and has helped me to keep in touch with my roots.

Bell foundry Rob re­turned to the bell foundry sev­eral times to doc­u­ment the whole cast­ing process. The bell cas­ing fea­tures on the front cover of the book Pub sign artist Rob and Tony had the idea for the book years ago, af­ter meet­ing in a pub. Rather aptly, a whole chap­ter is de­voted to pubs and brew­ing St ained Glass A vast ar­ray of kit was needed in or­der to cover ev­ery type of light­ing sit­u­a­tion Rob en­coun­tered, from di­rect sun­light to dark in­te­ri­ors

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