New York-based Dan Bigelow is a corporate and industrial photographer whose work with well-known brands (such as PPG) has taken him around the world. However, for his most recent shoot for Amada, an industrial machine production company, Dan stayed local by heading to family-owned sheet metal shops in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area.
These types of companies are usually located in those low brick buildings one sees in industrial parks, and are perfect examples of successful American small businesses with 50-100 employees. They are often multi-generational and family-run.
In the modern world, industrial outfits constantly deal with the introduction of new technology meant to streamline efficiency and safety. For the smaller businesses, it’s important to keep up with the current trends of their field and ensure each process is as up-to-date as possible. Dan’s imagery strikes a balance between showcasing the new technology alongside the hard-working individuals who oversee and handle it.
It’s an amazing process. These computer-controlled machines each replace an army of small drilling, cutting, and bending tools with greater speed, accuracy, and consistency.
For one shoot, Dan traveled to New Jersey to focus on a company that uses Amada’s laser cutting technology to fabricate parts for the aerospace industry. In everyday life, we aren’t typically exposed to the intricate details required for building planes. Through Dan’s work, we see how each factory is integral to the process of crafting machinery that will be used by millions of people every day.
I am fascinated by the gritty locations and behind-the-scenes work involved in industrial production.
In highlighting Amada’s laser cutters, Dan made an effort to feature the work of this machinery by getting as close as possible to the action without endangering himself.
To photograph the laser cutter in operation, I had to view directly into the machine. The lasers are shielded by sheets of thick green glass, so I needed to shoot through these windows, all while there were sparks and bits of metal flying.
The client wanted a mixture of industrial and portrait photography to promote their machinery. Working with Paul Webber, who produces the marketing material for Amada, Dan developed a systematic process for these small-business shoots. His checklist consisted of shooting the shop owners, the machinery in action, the finished product, and a few candid shots of everyday employee life.
My favorite part of these shoots is the couple of hours when I am free to roam the shop floor to photograph the employees and machines at work.
As someone who has worked with industrial workers all over the world, Dan knows the importance of capturing the skills of these essential employees. It is through their expertise and use of the equipment, that he can best feature the products themselves.
Working as a photographer, I appreciate the opportunity to experience a part of an individual’s life, and to document it in a way that makes it possible for someone else to see and understand what it’s about.