The recent book published by Laura Braun, Metier, investigates the Small Business in London, a region where Braun resides. The book is a combination of environment portrait of the persons engaged in the small business, a study of the business interior in conjunction with a brief statement made by the subject, usually in conjunction with how they were where they are at that time.
Since the term Metier was not well known to me, (a term that I never heard mentioned amongst the other small business owners in Southern California where our shop was residing),I thought it expansive to know more about this word in order to ground me as a reader. Perhaps this is a far more common term in England, as in California as these folks who run the small businesses are called are more commonly known as store owners, small businessman/women or for the hip stores, entrepreneur.
- A profession or trade, especially that to which one is well suited.
- A field of activity in which one has special ability or training; forte.
I suspect that the last part of the first definition creates more ambiguity in the reading of this book, as I find it extremely difficult to tell by looking a portrait or reading their statement that they are well suited to that professional trade. The later found definition seems to have a better connotation and connection with Braun’s sociological study.
This book immediately resonates with me as many photographers, whether full time or part time profession, commercial, portrait or fine art, usually fall into this broad category of commerce. And in fact, she features three photographic oriented small businesses in her book.
At one time we owned and operated a storefront retail store selling a combination of picture framing services, do-it-yourself framing supplies as well a broad selection of fine arts materials. Similar to Braun’s environmental portraits of the store owner’s enclave, we also had the “back room” where all of the framing magic occurred and our framing team could relax a moment out of the spotlight of the customers gaze.
Her portraits are at once a look into the past and as well as potentially into the future for a small segment of society in North America and Western Europe. In other parts of the developing world, these portraits probably do not appear as strange, nevertheless with the mindless expansion of McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks other chains, even the far reaches of the universe may soon be impacted.
In studying her photographs, it seems that the store interior soon take on a similar look as her subjects. The stores are autobiographic environments, from the neat, tidy and well arranged to those on the ragged edge of total chaos.
Unlike the current trend of neutral appearing subjects, it appears that Braun does not attempt to force her subjects into a predetermined formulistic pose. She captures what her subject’s offer, that perhaps this is part and parcel to her subject’s persona. It allows the reader to get a little more of a hint as to who this person might be and allows additional reflection on their story.
Likewise I find while reading this book recalling the various small shops and businesses I have frequented with some making a lasting impression and memory to this day.
I found this book to be a very enjoyable read.
The book has a stiff cover dust cover over a book block that has open thread binding. Okay, Braun describes the book as being naked bound with dust jacket, which I have discussed in much more detail in another post found here. As a result of this style of binding, the book lays flat and viewing the interior spreads a pleasure in combination with the smaller size of this publication. The flip side is that this is not a particularly strong type of binding thus the reader is encouraged to take a little more care in the books handling. My copy was immediately placed into a poly bag.
Laura Braun – Metier – Small Businesses in London
Copyright 2013 & published by Paper Tigers Books
Photography & Book Review by Douglas Stockdale