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