The Session | Laura Braun

10 Feb 2014

Metier, small businesses in London, is a collection of portraits and interior photographs documenting London's independant businesses. These subjects reveal people with fascinating lives absorbed by their line of work and business.

Laura Braun embarked on this project in 2007, what was intially meant to be an addition to her portfolio continued over the next six years. Shops and workshops, shopkeepers, and craftsmen and -women, those who despite the unglamorous routines, took pride in their work and had a sense of themselves closely linked to their occupation were all poignantly captured. Metier is now a published book available through Paper Tigers Books.

Laura Braun

Celia Mitchell, Ripping Yarns, Highgate

Appear Here caught up with Laura to find out more:

What first inspired you to begin this project?

I have always been drawn to what you might call old-school shops, - places where there are lots of specialist objects on display that get me thinking about all the things I could use them for and where there is someone with knowledge and skill that I don't have who is keen to help me. You can learn a lot in these kinds of shops.

When I started the project I was just looking for portrait subjects, just for my portfolio and started to photograph a few of the people in the book. In the beginning I didn't plan for this project to last this long (I continued for 6 years). But the more small business owners I met and the more time I spent with them in their shops and workshops, the clearer it became to me that theirs is an unusual way of life nowadays and that I wanted to document and celebrate while they are still operating.

Laura Braun

Peter Schweiger, James Taylor & Son, Marylebone

How did you find the subjects for your shops?

I didn't really search for them and the selection is not meant to be exhaustive or representative of all the kinds of small businesses there are in London. These are just the places I was interested in. I came across them mostly by chance or because I needed their services or goods. Once I had started the project, people who knew about it would also tell me about places they had found. So it grew and grew.

Were you looking for any common ingredients in the subjects you photographed?

All the places I photographed are run either by only one person or a family. They are places where the person running it strongly shapes the business and is really the heart and soul of it but also where their business, their particular trade or profession has really shaped their lives. So, some of the 'ingredients' were: individualist, truly independent businesses, a strong connection between work and life and some element of making, repairing or selling things, - rather than services.

Laura Braun

Salih Adalier, Kibris Photo Studio, Newington Green

What was the most interesting thing you discovered in a shop during this project?

For me as a photographer Ümit Mesut's shop Ümit and Son in Lower Clapton which is all about film/movies, but on celluloid, was probably one of the post interesting places. Actually not while I was doing the project but more recently when I went to see him, Ümit showed me a little slide viewer with very old slides that used one of the first photographic colour processes. I love these kinds of things.

In your experience what qualities makes a shop stand out?

The owners or sales people's passion for what is being sold and knowledge about it.

What types of shops appeal to you most?

Haberdashery shops, Ironmongers, Utility ware and DIY shops, unpretentious seconds hand and brick-a-brack shops, bookshops, record shops.

Laura Braun

At Argiriadis, Analogue Electronics

If you were to set up your own shop what would it be?

Oh... A bookshop, for new and second hand books with a bookmaking and printmaking workshop attached with a section for new and second hand music on vinyl and simple food and drink available and a repair workshop for all sorts of things from jeans to radios in a corner as well... utopia.

Laura Braun

You can find more of Laura Braun's work at http://www.laurabraun.net/

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