I never tire of observing others, looking out for clues to their lives. Photography acts as my official permission to do this and not be punched. Walking into the manufacturing world, faced with the impersonal rows of desks, computers, machinery, fluorescent lighting and the fast pace of production, I chose to isolate people and their work, visually, separating them from their surroundings. They would be the focus of attention and I had an excuse to have them stop working long enough for us to meet eye to eye.
One common thread within these very disparate businesses was the way people seemed at ease and proud of their tasks. Whether it was welding custom-made industrial filters or research on the strongest material in the world, there was a matter-of-fact, getting-on-with- it approach to the job and a cheerfulness that seemed uniquely British. This manner was contagious and made me do my own strange job (observing other people doing theirs) in the same way. I carried on, snooping into people’s cubicles with a foolish smile, always welcomed by a laugh.
Other photographers include Martin Parr, Stuart Franklin, Jonas Bendiksen, Mark Power, Peter Marlow, Chris Steele-Perkins, David Hurn. Peter Marsh, the FT’s former manufacturing editor, introduces the issue