11 : Houtwerk Design
From time to time, your nostrils catch an unexpected smell that catapults you twenty years back in time. For me, the smell of wood chips and the thin layer of sawdust covering everything in the room was enough to throw me back. Suddenly I was six, back in my Papa’s workshop on the family farm. I was directed to keep a safe distance, my face eclipsed by a pair of safety goggles, as I perched on a stool watching my Papa cut wood to exacting measurements with the table saw. I was “helping” around the shop, picking up discarded pieces of wood and sweeping sawdust into piles with a broom twice as long as I was tall.
Needless to say, entering Ashley’s studio felt like a familiar embrace. Apologetic for the sawdust, Ashley suggested we tuck my camera gear into a sealed section of the shop, typically used to lacquer and paint the wood pieces in their final stage. I was handed an elephantine set of ear defenders, and we got to work. The shop’s constellation of noises were muffled into a white noise that allowed each of us to to retreat into our respective artistic zones. Working on a custom table, it seemed to me as though she could feel the lifepulse of the wood as she sanded and shaped it to her vision.
Throughout the shoot I used tight compositions and high angles to emphasize the solidity of Ashley’s stance and the sense of focus projected by her facial expression. In one of my favourite shots, I used layers of exhaust piping and electrical wiring to frame her figure as she guided a piece wood through the saw. In the final portrait, I asked Ashley to invoke the feminist strength of Rosie the Riveter, a perfect complement to the 1920s aesthetic Ashley embodies outside of her woodworking studio.
For me, the beauty in portrait photography lies not within the walls of a sterile studio, but rather in the dust-covered workshop of a professional artist. After all, it would be difficult to photoshop in the woods chips flying around Ashley’s hands as she worked.
If you’d like me to photograph you as you work, I’m currently accepting commissions for the new year. Book me by December 20 for a 15% discount. Also, if you’d like to see more of Ashley’s work, follow Houtwerk Design on Facebook or click over to the website. I stand by her cheeseboards.
Location: Studio 5333 Avenue Casgrain, Montreal, QC
Date: June 15, 2015
Equipment: Canon 5diii, Canon 35mm, Canon 24-105m
On Thursday I sit down with one of my favourite photographers, Maria Szemplinska, to chat about her acclaimed soaring photography.
This article about Environmental Portraiture was written by the Montreal-based product photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle.