Photography News Issue 46

Photography News | Issue 46 |

14 Interview

Pro focus

Three years ago Brighton-based photographer Adam Bronkhorst landed a commission to shoot portraits of local working people and his project has now turned into a valuable social document Work in progress

Words by Terry Hope Pictures by AdamBronkhorst

Some of the best long-term projects have originated with a quirk of fate, and little did Adam Bronkhorst realise, when he first received a commission from Viva Brighton magazine to produce regular monthly portraits of working people around the town, that he’d still be working on the commission nearly three years later. What’s built up since then is a comprehensive selection of images that serve as a social document of businesses, both mainstream and quirky, that are plying their trade in this area at this moment in time. The series of images is something that’s fascinating to look through now, but will go on to have even more value in the future. “I’d been shooting for the magazine for a year or so before the series came about,” says Adam. “They have a sister publication, Viva Lewes magazine, and they were doing a similar thing, so when Viva Brighton changed its format to become slightly bigger, they thought they would carry the idea across. And I’m so glad that they did, as I’ve got to meet so many great people over the past two-and-a-half years or so – 150 now and counting – and I love doing the shoot every month.” After all this time the series has taken on a life of its own, and Adam has turned his camera on a wide varietyof local businesspeople, from those working in the technology industry through to design agencies, media companies, gymnasiums, local performers, bread makers, artists and so on. The list goes on, and the challenge over time has

been to adapt the approach to suit the individual and to constantly come up with new angles, so that the work doesn’t become formulaic in any way. It’s not been easy, but Adam relishes the challenge and he’s managed to come up with a surprising amount of variety throughout the project, even when he’s had to work within parameters, such as a regular office space, that could have proved limiting. Still progressing No final figure has been set in terms of how long the series might run. In theory, it could pretty much go on forever, since there is a seemingly endless stream of professions, hobbies and subjects to focus on, but even if it were to come to a close anytime soon, there would still be a strong and detailed body of work that would serve to tell the story of the working people of Brighton at this time. “Personally, I’d love it to continue indefinitely,” says Adam. “I’m finding that it’s a great way of documenting the people of Brighton and Hove, and it’s a great snapshot of how we work and what we do, so hopefully, in years to come, we’ll look back on it as a great resource.” Making the shot Because every shoot is different, there is no one set approach that always works, but generally Adam likes to travel light, so he usually takes a single Billingham bag with just his Nikon D800 and a selection of prime lenses. “I’ll also carry one

flash and a trigger if I need to light something,” he explains, “but as we’re usually darting all across the city, it’s much easier to work with available light, unless the idea is to make a particular shoot all about flash, like I did when I was covering performers one month. On this occasion I tried to tell a story with each shot, and I set up different situations with a variety of coloured lighting, so that the results were like filmstills. On another occasion I was producing a portrait of some tattoo artists, and I used flash to make them look like something out of a Rembrandt painting. “I like to get close to people, so I’m usually shooting on a 24mm, a 35mm or my beloved 50mm f/1.8 lens, which I got in Singapore for £60 while on honeymoon in 2005. It’s theultimatenifty fifty, but it’s just so light and good at what it does that I wouldn’t be without it.” Adam is very open to inspiration, and for that reason, although he’ll think about how to tackle a particular shoot a few days in advance, he tries not to have too fixed an idea in mind. “I’ll usually find that the first shoot of the day sets the tone and ideas for the rest of that set,” he says. “So I’ll usually take a cue from the environment or the theme that month. I do use props sometimes, as I did for a portrait of home brewers where I wanted to have them all holding their products, but I’ll usually try and show what people do, so you can see from the image what their story or profession is.”

With the project maturing nicely Adam has turned his thoughts to doing something substantial with the work, but nothing is set in stone yet. Exhibitions can be expensive to mount and a book would be on the back burner until there’s more idea how long the series might run. “I’d love people outside of Brighton and Hove to see the project,” says Adam, “In the meantime, however, I’m content to upload the images every month to my website and people can go there to see what I’m up to and to have a look. And it’s been great to see the project evolving over the past two-and-a-half years.”

Images Food van owners, selling anything from ice cream to Bratwurst, form part of Adam’s project on the working people of Brighton and Hove.

Professional Photo

This article first appeared in issue 134 of Professional Photo , on sale now. It’s packed with inspiring images and tips for aspiring pros and those already making a living.

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