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Top 5 – Disappearing Professions

  • Inspiration
  • 20/05/18

It seems like every day, another job is taken over by technology or if we look back in time, we can see many jobs that were replaced during the Industrialisation time. Some jobs which you might not have considered are the milkman, An elevator operator, a chimney sweep, typist, a clock winder, a lamplighter, and even a town crier!  Although many obsolete now, it is interesting to remember them!

Here are 5 photographers that captured professions as they were disappearing.

1.  August Sander

In the 1920’s, Sander embarked on capturing a 40 year project of  the People of the Twentieth Century. He has left us an amazingly special collective portrait of the German people during a very important and turbulent time. It was not just of single people but also of groups, taken indoors and outdoors. He divided the project into 7 main groups. In 1936, the Nazis confiscated his first published version of the project and 25,000 to 30,0000 negatives were destroyed by a fire. Imagine the heartbreak.

2. Supranav Dash – Marginal Trades

Trades in India have been intertwined with the caste system. In the early 1800’s, people were not allowed to move from their caste to another one. Now with India being hit hard with modernization, a modern India refuses to stay with their ancestral professions and trades and move to more lucrative business proposals. On his website, Dash names the profession, the amount they earn weekly and the year the image was taken. It is interesting to see the value that is put on each profession.

3. Ken Hermann

Hermann created beautiful portraits of Indian men and flowers. This was a personal project for him. He brought the men along with the flowers they sold to the river Ganges to have a neutral and unbusy background. He chose only to show men as the women sellers were reluctant to pose so he decided to keep it just to the men. Hermann paid some of the traders but other’s they were happy to be just part of the project.

4. Eugène Atget Les Petits Métiers

Atget was born in 1857. He was one of the first to document Paris street life. He especially loved the old Paris at the turn of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, due to industrialization small trades started to disappear. Using a large format camera, Atget would capture and in essence document the people on the streets. Unlike Irving Penn’s portraits below, it is the merchandise which sells the profession rather than their features. In 1912, he records the decline of the street vendors.

5. Irving Penn

This very famous photographer pulled in small tradespeople from the street to have a full-length portrait taken against a textured canvas background.  Interestingly, he used only natural light. They were asked to pose in their working clothes and not change. Interestingly, he said that the French were most suspicious of why he was taking these portraits and the British were the most relaxed! The book Irving Penn: Small trades have 252 prints in total and are just magnificent.