To help launch a new range of projects, Maharam asked Nick Ballon to document the processes of leather production. The result is this absorbing set of photographs, which the company is using on its website and on social media.
“The project was shot over a week in and around the tanneries of Northern Italy,” says Ballon. “I think Maharam were pretty forward-thinking when commissioning this work as it could have quite easily been a ‘how to’ guide to leather production. Instead they were interested in communicating more a sense of place and atmosphere for the facilities they were working with.”
Maharam gave Ballon the freedom to shoot the project in the style of his choosing. “I spent a week working directly with the client, and I think as a company they are used to working in this way, as typically they collaborate creatively with designers and artists in producing new textiles so it did feel like this was a natural process for them,” he says.
“It was very fulfilling to work in this pared-down way, as I found there was a common understanding of what we both wanted and the client was happy to give me the creative freedom to shoot as I would normally approach a personal project. There were obvious discussions about specifics of leather production that needed to be represented by these seemed to evolve quite naturally in the photography as we planned our week.”
The most challenging aspect of the shoot was to avoid being too intrusive within the day-to-day life of the factory. “The challenges were working with a live environment whereby you have to slot in-between a busy production schedule of a factory,” says Ballon. “If I missed a opportunity then I had to decide if I wanted to recreate this situation or pause what was happening so I could get the shot. Then it becomes about dealing with people and how much I wanted to interject and take over a natural situation I had observed.
“Not knowing much about leather-making beforehand but having a number of factory related projects in my portfolio I knew the learning curve was going to be steep,” he continues, “but with that comes a natural inquisitiveness to understand more about the processes. In these instances I think it’s important not to worry about asking silly uneducated questions but to learn quickly in how I might be able to visually translate something technical into something creative as a image.”