Arne Svenson, an American photographer captures through a collection of soft shaded portraits the individuality of his subjects and their profession in his series The Workers. Giving a fresh and restored perspective into manual labour, the fine art photographer turns professions that are often overlooked by society into works of art by reanimating them between their movements and overalls.
The Workers, a series of voyeuristic portraits focusing on significant details of manual workers, more specifically of them doing their physical activities as well as their surroundings (hands, elbows, plastic sheeting, dust-prevention masks). Such mondaine details are turned into elements of grace creating these unique, delicate portraits, such that one would keep in a locket. These portraits, by adding new and additional aspects into the life of these anonymous characters allows a split second insight into this different world. The series The Workers is a direct follow up from his former series The Neighbors. Both using similar esthetic components and shoot from a window on subjects oblivion to the camera. Arne examines different spectrums of human activities, through the medium of photography. By shooting anonymously in his Manhattan studio, the photographer creates a purified universe through his lens striving to come close to the ‘truth’. “I could have never have staged, nor directed, the photographs I took; I could only wait until the subjects evidenced a posture, or tone that was too nuanced to ever reproduce on demand“.
Peeking into colour
Each shade of pastel nuances complements a distinct trait of each profession unique to the subject. The colors are a direct understanding of reality, deriving all from natural sources such as light and the window’s peculiarities. Arne observed, “while shooting through layers of windows, the dirt, imperfections and reflections on the surface of the glass diffused and altered the palette, resulting in an overall warm colorisation“. The choice of shooting at particular times determined the strength of these natural nuances. The oval form, a significant ingredient for the series unique singularity, combines the artistic symbolism of referring to a window, while using the idea of portraits. By referring to the Old Masters paintings it adds a social commentary, designating the elevated status that manual laborers are often seen as “less than” in society. The beauty of the workers found within the pictures faced with the reality of the less sumptuous work conditions allows a reverie, abruptly taken back to reality with the smudges on the window or the dust on the frame.
Photos by © Arne Svenson