Brenden Freedman’s Black and White Portraits Capture Blue Collar Workers


All images by Brenden Freedman. Used with permission.

Tri-X 320 isn’t as used or famous as its 400 ISO variant, but Brenden Freedman is one of the photographers using the black and white film for a special documentary portrait project. The series “Like My Father Before Me” is about blue collar workers in America who do the jobs that they do out of pride or necessity.

Freedman grew up in La Grange and remembers educators stigmatizing blue collar jobs. But instead of adopting this ideal, he found fascination in the type of work that they do–which is ultimately necessary to our daily way of life.

“My father and grandfather, a mechanic and a monument mason, built entire lives with their hands,” said Freedman. “They supported their families through tireless work and dedication to their craft. From an early age, it was made clear to me that society values a very specific type of education and career.” Freedman continues to state that there is a general misunderstanding of the value that trades and blue-collar jobs can provide.

Freedman was inspired by Richard Avedon for the portraits–where he placed each subject in front of a white background. The choice was made so that the viewers would focus on the subject matter and nothing else. He took the subjects into a studio and fired away with a large format Toyo 45AII and Nikkor-w 150mm f/5.6 w/ Copal #0. The larger your format becomes, the slower and more deliberate you often need to be about shooting due to the film costs and the fact that less is in focus at a given aperture than standard 35mm film.

“It is a slow, deliberate process which instills a unique sense of collaboration between me and my subject.” Freedman said about the shoots. “After I focus the image, I am free to step out from behind the camera. Face to face, I can interact with and observe each person more readily. I look for a gesture that tells me something about their life’s work and history.”

More of the images are after the jump.















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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.