Threading the needle, documenting the passion.
Capturing the process of traditional bespoke tailoring and modern-day denim craft, photographer Marc Haers set out to explore the different worlds of the service shop at DENHAM the Jeanmaker in Amsterdam and bespoke tailor NEW TAILOR in Utrecht.
When documenting DENHAM and NEW TAILOR you’ll see a beautiful juxtaposition of rawness vs perfection. Though there is one very important resemblance: craftsmanship. When you get closer and closer to their craft (visually), you’ll see the differences fading away. Both still use age-old techniques whether they were born in Japan (Boro) or in Western Europe (Tailoring). The beauty is found in between those moments, when the needle and thread work in harmony with the operator and it seems that two things so vastly different can also be the same.
I remember vividly when I first entered the service shop of DENHAM, and the interesting thing about it was that it wasn’t even a separate department at all. They did all of the work right there in the middle of one of their flagship stores. DENHAM has always been an honest and straightforward brand, that also translates in the people that run it. It doesn’t shy away from showing it’s truth and that also means that all of the repairs they do can be witnessed right there in front of you. That honest and truthful way of working opened up the opportunity to start documenting it in the same way. The rough stitching and the ‘feeling’ the employees put into repairing the jeans. It’s something you rarely see in the middle of a store and allows the freedom to become part of their process as a photographer.
When you walk into NEW TAILOR you’ll know it’s different. Different meaning the way you are greeted, treated and helped. You can see it’s a tailor but somehow it’s like you’re visiting an old friend. When you start looking around you’ll start to understand why. Their eye for detail combined with the warm energy of the people that work there is what gives that ‘homely’ feeling. There’s a sense of comfort everywhere. The way they’ve decorated the store starting at the main floor for measurements all the way up to the third where the final touches are added to their garments.
The precision in their work creates beautiful compositions. Getting the measurements, making that perfect line, cutting the fabrics just right and then bringing all of that craftsmanship together.
That’s what I wanted to focus on while shooting.
Documenting craftsmanship has been part of my work for as long as I remember. So when given the chance to test this brand new macro lens, I wanted to take that to another level. I am a purebred portrait photographer and in doing so mostly operate at the 50mm focal length. By working with this lens I found myself in a different world of storytelling:focusing on details that I would normally skip. This is why I loved the idea of photographing the story of the modern day tailor. Contrasting ‘repair’ and ‘bespoke’ and therefore also documenting the timelessness of both crafts.
I felt like the lens was challenging me to take a completely different look at what I was seeing. To ‘Zero in’ on details that I usually left for the wider image to convey. Thanks to the lens, I could go where I normally wouldn’t consider visually going. Getting right into the action was a new way of having fun during the shoot as it triggered a different kind of concentration. Getting up close and personal was completely new for me.
Nailing the shot
In this new world of hyper-detailed photography, I was impressed by the focusing experience. As a non-macro shooter, I felt very much at ease with the high precision of the focus ring when being extremely close to the subjects. I never felt frustrated when finding the shot and making sure I nailed focus. It put me in a different state of mind when all I wanted to do was ‘nail the shot’ instead of document what I was seeing. The shoots only got more fun as they progressed.
The Bigger picture
Once I got used to the macro capabilities of the lens I felt like it was time to put the lens to ‘my’ test. I wanted to explore whether it truly could be the perfect all-rounder. I took a step back and started taking the photos that I felt more comfortable with as a photographer. Exploring the wider range of photos. Portrait photography and documenting the bigger picture.
I was very impressed with the lens. The amount of detail was mind blowing. I looked at the images with a critical eye for what I wanted to see in a good portrait lens. The detail, roll-off, micro-contrast and skin rendering were all to the standard I’d demand of my lenses. The SIGMA 105mm F2.8 DG DN MACRO | Art demonstrates it is full of surprises and started to change my opinion of macro lenses as a whole.
So let’s talk about the practical side of the lens. It was light and easy to work with. I’m not a photographer that looks too much at specs, so bear that in mind but what I find extremely important is the overall handling of the gear I use. I don’t like to be ‘weighed-down’ by the lenses that I use. It really did feel like the lens wasn’t there sometimes. It was balanced perfectly on the Sony A7R4 and had no complaints whatsoever while using it.
Being able to shoot wide-open in low-light situations without fearing the loss of image-sharpness also gave a sense of security with the lens. The photoshoots took place in quite dim, artificially lit situations. It put a strain on both me and the camera so it was up to the lens to make up for it.
I did not expect this lens to be such a game-changer. Thanks to its lightweight, ease-of-use, image quality, and all-round capabilities, it honestly did change my perspective of macro-lenses. This entire shoot was based around craftsmanship (tailors). SIGMA’s approach to creating their own lenses also demands craftsmanship. This means tailoring to the needs of photographers and in this case making sure that the lens performs both in close range and far away. It could just be the perfect all-rounder. That says a lot coming from a portrait photographer.