Moulded

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A lot has been said about Zimbabwe, and it is not a country often associated with peace and tranquility, however when I had some free time there recently I shot a portrait series at jewellery designer, Patrick Mavros' studio where I found something comforting and methodical in the simplicity of the different coloured uniforms to reflect the hierarchy.

Behind the scenes workers in most industries are often forgotten, and I wanted to make a positive series that’s reflective of their environment, and what was most obvious whilst spending time here was the organic community spirit that has been developed over time, along with a genuine passion for craftsmanship that these workers have for the process of working with Silver.

There was an obvious harmony in the factory that was due to both job satisfaction and the clearly defined roles of the factory workers, which was referenced by the colour of their uniforms. Each department was separated: the light-blue uniforms separate from the dark blue uniforms, and the supervisor's had their own room; yet what I found most interesting was that there were no internal walls separating the workers, just clear perspex. And although the roles were defined and separated, there was still a feeling of openness, respect, and transparency between the departments.

The light was just perfect in the mid-afternoon Zimbabwe sun, and so I shot them against the white wall at the back of the studio with the dappled sunlight coming through the trees. I always try to document a human connection with the landscape or environment and therefore wanted the characters of each sitter, along with their uniforms, to be the main point of focus, not the factory itself. As always with my portraiture there’s only one thing I look for, and that is to have a considered level of engagement that goes beyond the ordinary.

See more from Whelan on his Website and Instagram.