For the last 75 years, Sabin Metal has grown from a one-man operation in New York City to a national corporation that adapts to new advancements in recycling technologies. As their practices grow and change, this multi-generational company wanted their website to reflect their 21st-century improvements. Denver-based Matt Nager spent two days visiting Sabin Metal’s upstate New York facility to capture their unique processes, personnel, and precious metals that would help rebrand their online platform.
Matt received the call from the N.Y.-based company, which was working with a branding studio to revamp their website and marketing content. As a brand-narrative photographer, Matt’s expert storytelling provided captivating portraits of the employees along with a detailed look at Sabin’s methods for refining and recycling metals.
Sabin Metal has been a world leader in metal recycling for decades, but their website was also decades old.
Working with the branding studio, Matt prepared a shot-list that would color their website pages, social media, and print advertising. While he has never worked with Sabin Metal before, his previous experience shooting for national breweries like Coors and New Belgium aided Matt in his ability to navigate a large-scale facility.
Throughout the project we had a fantastic working relationship. I was involved in the creative direction from the beginning and I feel like my input was listened to throughout.
Matt flew from Denver to Rochester, N.Y. in May of 2021, and the timing of the project made the open-air factory easier to explore than in the colder months. As someone who has previously photographed subjects in remote locations, Matt was prepared for the day spent in the rural Appalachian facility. After doing an initial location scout, he spent one 12-hour shoot day at Sabin’s factory, following a schedule that would enable him to move through the location without delays.
The vast majority of the images were taken in one day and we moved quickly, setting up a schedule to keep us going.
When photographing a factory, the building’s size often makes it impossible to capture every detail. Instead of providing a wide-angle view of Sabin’s extensive machinery, Matt approached the project with a closer look at the molten metals and the science behind their recycling processes.
A factory like this leads to so many photo possibilities, it’s important to stay focused and not overshoot in the limited time available.
Navigating the large building proved difficult as Matt was both photographer and crew for this assignment. He carried his own equipment throughout the day and had to rely on his ability to multitask as he satisfied the library of images the client needed.
Creatively speaking, the biggest challenge was keeping track of our photography needs. I didn’t travel with an assistant or larger crew, so I did a lot of the heavy lifting on my own.
The dramatic contrast between the dark factory and bright molten metals allowed Matt to play with natural light throughout the shoot. He found ways to bring color to the industrial location and lightly retouched the portraits to maintain authenticity when highlighting Sabin’s employees.
I realized early on that moody lighting worked here and we shot natural light for much of the shoot, but it was tough to gauge how far I was from the sparks and molten metal flying around!
Matt’s photojournalism background played a key role in producing content that could tell the client’s story. As he moved through each aspect of Sabin’s operation he focused on documenting the real-life employees, with all the grit of their everyday work.
My favorite part was getting to work in this amazing exotic location and meet incredibly photogenic people who aren’t used to being photographed.
This project offered Matt the opportunity to capitalize on his past experience, his current creative interests, and the direction he hopes to take his photography career. While the unconventional location was challenging to navigate, it provided him with the chance to utilize his creativity and bring his style to an industrial setting. The client was incredibly pleased with the resulting images and Matt has had an overwhelmingly positive response from other creatives who appreciated the refined beauty in this raw, commercial project.
Before advertising, I came from a background where storytelling drove everything. I love bringing that approach to advertising and with the creation of photo libraries.