A week ago today, I was just packing my bag for a shoot in central London.
I was going to spend a whole day in a basement, hopelessly outnumbered by engineers. Also, the coffee would be bad.
Anyone who knows me even slightly would imagine that might be my idea of hell, (the venue, in the basement of The Building Centre is very 1970s, and a great place for a meeting but a hard environment for good photography) yet it was actually rather good, and here’s why, in one word: Women.
The fairly widely accepted image of (consultant) engineers as dull, sensible, grey men in suits with calculators and a well-versed line in pedantic questioning is, perhaps, justified under certain circumstances; next to your average banker (bespoke suit, costly watch), designer (rare teeshirt, crazy hair) or art dealer (shabby blazer, showy brogues) the stereotype makes sense, but I know differently.
I knew that the delegates at the APRES 2015 conference on Responsible Sourcing in construction supply chains would represent as wide a cross-section of engineering experience as well as backgrounds and personalties, as many companies, specialisms and disciplines were involved, and I was looking forward to photographing them in all their variety.
What surprised and pleased me most, though, was that exactly half the delegates were women, blowing the “Grey Men” stereotype clean out of the water.
What’s more, a good proportion of these engineers – men and women – were well-dressed and stylish, and very far from any negative stereotypes you can think of about the profession.
As construction supply chains aren’t really my main interest, I dedicated the majority of my attention to capturing the faces, expressions and personalities of the delegates; friendly, impassioned, inquisitive, daydreaming, engaged, enthusiastic.
They were a gift for a lover of candid portraiture like me, and the 50/50 male/female ratio ensured that the dynamics of the room – particularly during refreshment breaks when people started conversing in social groups – yielded some excellent body language.
The coffee was also not quite as bad as I’d feared, although the good stuff was still available upstairs at The Crescent Cafe, for sensible money.
All in all, it turned out to be a very successful day and, as you can see, it turns out that engineers are a rather good-looking bunch! (But don’t say I said so…)