Industrial photography

Industrial photography – restoration work

A commission from a London property and surveying company to document restoration work in progress on several of their key projects.

These included an architectural gem of a Victorian pumping station in East London. The stone cleaning of the front of a London Livery hall and a very unique school chapel ceiling in North London.

The brief was to keep the images natural, with minimal, if any intervention or direction to the subjects. Natural reportage to be used to promote their work, within their marketing materials. I was given an open brief, to liase with the contractors on-site, and to document how and where they worked. The aim was to give the images a ‘photo-journalistic’ style – I would approach each shoot, as I did for broadsheet newspapers and my editorial magazine work, looking for images that captured the key features of a site and the different work involved. In required a certain amount of flexibility…

IndustrIal photography reportage

On the stone cleaning shoot, next to London Bridge, the technique to be photographed involves no scaffolding, excessive noise or showering passing pedestrians with water and dirt. Working from a lightweight vacuum cabin suspended by a boom, the masonry is cleaned by projecting very fine powders with low-pressure compressed air. No chemicals, water, or detergent used. The gentle rubbing action of the fine powder and compressed air quickly removes decades of dirt and pollution. The cabin then captures the bulk of the powder cloud with a water spray and brings it down to a containment area at ground level via hoses. This cabin contains the spray, the dust, the dirt and the water – but does make it visually a bit dull… So apart from some images shot through the Hall windows, it was important to get images near the roof. The question was when? We were waiting upon the weather and permits from TFL.

Sure enough the work began on the weekend when I was up in Derbyshire. Cutting short my part in a family holiday, I raced back to London on an early train. Work was delayed though that day. Abandoning that, I returned the next day in time for the statue cleaning at the very top of the facade. Shooting with the amazing 14-24mm lens, standing at the edge of the roof, the light was great but I left it a minute too long… A nanosecond later my lens, my camera and myself were engulfed by a large blast. I had been warned that the powder was so fine it could penetrate a camera lens – however, the camera and lens shrugged off the assault, a few blasts of Kenair and they were back in action.