Beyond Work and its connection to Fieldwork

This post was originally written for These Atoms.

I'm spending the day at Aardman animation for my side project Beyond Work. Beyond Work is a long running photographic project documenting people at work. It's an attempt to unearth the stories hidden behind the walls of offices, to shine a light on the work that's often hidden in plain sight and to document all of this in an honest way.

The project is not about glorifying or glamourising particular types of jobs, it's about capturing the current status of work in many walks of life not just artisan workshops with crafts people in them. I've recently photographed an accountantdust bin man and a postman.

The project also attempts to capture the life story of each worker in words. The simple question that's looking for an answer is "how did this person end up in this job?" It's obviously more complex than that, and the interviews alongside the photographs will attempt to let the viewer into each persons world. There will be some answers, but the viewer will ultimately come to their own conclusions.

I love those phrases, “a certain kind of truth,” “a particular kind of objectivity.” They imply that there is a not-knowing which is valuable
— Bill Jay

If it hasn't already become obvious, the connections between Beyond work and Fieldwork are many. For a start, Fieldwork uses photography techniques to document. Beyond Work is a brilliant opportunity to practice the art of observing, choosing what to capture and what to document. 

I also get an invaluable insight into the culture of work. I've been wandering around Aardman for a few hours. During that time I've had chats with receptionists, designers and one of the founders. I've heard stories about how people work and I've witnessed interactions between people across all layers. My ethnographic eyes and ears and prickling with excitement.

People talk a lot about side projects, and this is for me a brilliant example of the importance of them. A principle that's important in my side projects is that they are done primarily to learn something. They are not normally about making money.

Beyond works purpose is about telling a story that I think needs to be documented and shared. I'd like it to be insightful to people considering their future of work and to those that have lived in the fog of work for many years. Ultimately I'd like it to change something, to change how people perceive work and their journey into what they are going to spend a large part of their life doing.


GDS on Ethnography

Using the Fieldwork DIY Kits - James Box, Clearleft