Photographic Documentation

Way back in the day I worked at a place where the boss was kind of a jerk. But, I have to admit, he did at least one thing very well that I cannot take away from him: he documented the progress of his studio with great assiduousness. This included, every few months, getting the whole staff together for a group photo.

When you think about it, you spend so much time with the people at work, maybe even more than you do with members of your own family, during certain periods. And, so often, there is no record of the people with whom you’re sharing that time. That’s why I thought it was so smart to take those photographs periodically; the practice stuck with me.

Everyone Smile

Well, it stuck with me in a latent sense, anyway. For whatever reason, when I had my partnership in a studio I wasn’t particularly vigilant about photographic documentation of our team. Once in a while I would bring in my camera, but I never formally organized a session in which the group would be photographed.

But when, as I mentioned recently, the first of the designers at handed in her resignation, that old documentarian lesson jumped to mind. Just before that designer’s last day, I was able to convince one of the staff photographers at The Times, Hiroko Masuike, to very graciously donate some of her time take some photos of the entire design group staff.

Below right: Shiny happy design people. Standing counter-clockwise, from top left: Alex, Bart, Jeremy, Lisa, Sean, Caryn, Louise, Elliott, Andrew, yours truly, Pau and Rebecca.

We got everyone together on a Tuesday evening in the building cafeteria and Hiroko snapped away. At the time, I remember feeling a little embarrassed by my own sentimentality; it felt a little parental of me to want to get everyone together for no particular purpose other than taking a photo. But looking at the shots Hiroko returned (my favorite of her selects is below), I’m really glad we did it. First, everyone looks great. And second, with one designer already departed and more changes to the group pending, this particular collection of people will never be all together again, probably. Design Group Photo
  1. Photo-reportage at work, in stead of posing…

    I have been thinking lately about a similar idea. I was wondering why there seems to be no photographer who made a photo-reportage about the real life in company’s. E.g. during meetings: there are people yawning, where others are passionately explaining something at the same time. Co-workers are reviewing something closely, … I mean, you see those kind of pictures in booklets that comes with CD’s, pictures taken during recording sessions. But in Engineering departments, the same passion can be seen during meetings. And as you wrote it: you spend so much time with the people at work …

    My guess is that many photographers live the life of a freelancer, which is miles away from the corporate life.

  2. It’s funny, since whenever I check up on old photos of teams and groups that I’ve been a part of, I always think that everyone looks so cheery and content, even though there very well may be some hostility or uneasiness between some members.

    What’s so ironic is that thinking about teams I worked with, I always forget the tensions and only remember the cheery faces, which is easily reinforced by relics like this.

    I just imagine that it would be tough to get team members who only work together (and not, say, socialize outside of work) to stand so closely and comfortably next to each other on a staircase. Thank the photographer, I’m thinking.

  3. it is true that much time is spent with work folks, and ideally it is dedicated to accomplishing a goal together. well worth photodocumenting.

    love the new building.

    the guy in the plaid shirt looks familiar, like i’ve seen him in an add in the austin chronicle.

  4. And what a pleasure it was to meet some of these fine people last week!

    Thanks for showing us around the offices, Khoi – I think everyone came away saying that it was one of the best – and most interesting – experiences we’d had while in NYC. And cheers for showing us the East Village the night after – we all had a great time.

    Hopefully the first of many!

  5. This sounds like a great idea to do. That team looks human! Hehe. I’ll propose this to my team.

    I find that over the past several years, people around me do not take pictures as much. Even at large family gatherings. Amongst friends, we’ll have pictures, but not of the whole group together.

  6. I have worked for a leader in the Graphics Hardware industry for 16 years and have seen many a change. Along the way, we have had many group photos taken, documenting an interesting journey. Recently this fine company has been taken over and the group has swiftly disintegrated, most everyone doing what they have to do to reach their individual goals. The photos remain, however and I am thankful for them. More power to you and the idea of the team photo ! Cheers, Kevin…

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