Magazine article Communication World

Improving the Office Shot: Use Work Space as Context for Meaning

Magazine article Communication World

Improving the Office Shot: Use Work Space as Context for Meaning

Article excerpt

Among the most common settings for organizational photographs is an office. Office space consists of partitions, desks, chairs, files, cabinets, papers, phones and computers. Yet such things communicate little by themselves as photographic content. Office space is simply office space, until human beings enter it and go to work. At that point, photojournalists can capture on film how people work within their office space, using the work space itself as context for meaning.

Here are four effective examples of office space photography. Each of them has a story to tell, not only because of the space itself, but because of how its inhabitants make use of it.

When work space is at a premium, people usually try to make the most out of whatever space they can find. Our first example makes this point effectively. Shooting for The Business of Caring, a magazine published for CIGNA Corporation's (Philadelphia, Pa.) customer-contact employees, Chicago freelance photojournalist Mike Mauney successfully photographs eight people meeting in an office cubicle at one of CIGNA'S client companies. People working in tight cubicles are hard enough to shoot under any circumstances, and even more so when the cubicle is occupied by more than one or two people at a time. Yet Mauney makes the most of his opportunity. He stands on a nearby desk to get the shot, and most likely uses a super wide angle lens of at least 20mm to include all of the participants. Four people squeeze inside the office itself -- two sit on a file cabinet, the other two use the only available chairs. Four others crowd around the entrance to the office, more as observers than as active participants. Because of Mauney's high vantage point, all of us become observers as well. The man seated in the center of the picture becomes the focal point -- because of his position within the frame, our eyes gravitate toward him. At the moment, he is the only one speaking. He is the key to this shot, and probably the key to this meeting as well.

Our second example is taken from the same story. Only now Mauney uses a much lower vantage point to shoot this picture through the window of an executive's office. A post and some window framing put us into the role of observers once again. Because Mauney is outside the office looking in, these people are, for the moment, unaware of him. …

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