This past spring, I spent a memorable morning photographing workers in a Bolivian factory. They were making hats by hand, with the help of noisy and seemingly hazardous machinery that reminded me of the factories of centuries past. I wanted to make portraits expressing the character of the workers as well as the nature of the task itself. The three portraits I feature this month not only tell the story of these workers, but also offer insights into the nature of their workplace.
I was granted unrestricted access to the factory floor. I did not pose any of these subjects. I photographed them just as I found them. Some were obviously aware of my presence, while others were not. None of them altered their behavior for the benefit of the camera.
Wool gatherer, Sucre, Bolivia
This woman spends her days sorting and packing wool that will eventually find make the large felt hats sold throughout Bolivia and surrounding countries. Speaking to me through a translator, she described the weighty demands of the job. As she speaks, I used a wide-angle lens to relate her to her surroundings. The colorful bags of wool in the background make her work most seem festive. It is not. It is repetitive and tiring. She spoke haltingly, holding one hand to her throat as if she was trying to amplify her voice. She seems quite vulnerable, alone in a sea of wool.
Machine operator, Sucre, Bolivia
This machine operator is processing wool. I include just enough of the machine and the wool to provide context for her task....
This content is available to IABC members only. To continue reading, log in below.