Working from home with…
2020 has suddenly and unexpectedly pitched many of us into the world of working from home. And we’ve all had to adapt to working together while staying apart. We’ve started asking people we know or admire or both to tell us about what not going into the office any more has influenced the way they get thigs done. Do they have a dedicated home office? Have they recruited family members to help out? Has having meetings onscreen changed the dynamic?
Andy is Director of Photography at The Telegraph Magazine, learning his trade through working at Magnum Photos for four years in the nineties. He then freelanced for a while, working for ES Magazine, The Times Magazine, FHM and others. At The Telegraph Magazine he commissions work from photographers both unknown and world famous for images that run from fashion and food to celebrity portraits and travel. He knows everybody, including us, which is how we came to be asking him about how he’s been getting on with working from home.
How would you describe what you do?
I commission original photography for the covers and features in the magazine and I oversee a picture researcher and apprentice who look after the research and call-ins side of things.
What was your normal pre-lockdown daily routine?
Pre-lockdown I would normally be in the office by about 8.30/8.45 in order to get ahead of the day and our actual start time of 10am. It’s generally intense and pressured with sometimes up to 10 shoots on the go at different stages of production, so there’s a lot of detail to keep on top of. It’s all about juggling and prioritising, with constant communication with commissioning editors and the art department and agents & PRs for the shoots. There’s no set routine to my day as such, other than regular weekly production and visuals meetings, but everything I do is to a deadline of some sort, so I always keep an eye on being in total control and working efficiently. I go on a lot of shoots so a laptop is essential in order to keep on top of things when I’m out on set. Usually I try to leave work by 6.30pm latest.
Would you normally go into an office to work?
Absolutely. The nature of working in a visual role necessitates meetings and conversations about creative direction and so on and this is best done face-to-face. Editing shoots also becomes collaborative in the latter stages, as the editor and creative director get involved at that point in choosing final images for the cover and layouts.
Did the lockdown make your job more difficult?
Fortunately, the Telegraph has had the systems in place for a couple of years or more for remote working. They actively promote WFH where possible. As such the transition was by-and-large seamless for me as I can access specialist software and the servers remotely. With multiple ways to communicate it’s obviously no problem to keep in touch with colleagues, but it’s not quite the same as walking over to someone’s desk to chat through things.
How do socially distant shoots work?
I have done a handful of shoots since March and it’s worked well. Of course, crew size needs to be kept to the minimum and it’s important for those on set to respect distance and space. We shot an actress some weeks back in her garden and the stylist did the fitting in the morning, then the actress did her own hair and make-up with a make-up artist in attendance via Zoom. And in the afternoon, the photographer with just one assistant turned up for the shoot itself. Worked really well and you’d never know that it was produced under such limitations.
I did one shoot very early on in lockdown with a photographer photographing his toddler daughter for the cover of the magazine. He set up a simple plain backdrop at home and we connected via TeamViewer so I could see the shots literally as they dropped into CaptureOne. Technology really does allow for art/photo directors to be on the shoot remotely and still have the level of control that we were used to before.
Do you miss going on shoots yourself?
Yes! Shoot days are the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the results of that preparation unfold before your eyes. Equally if something isn’t quite working or needs tweaking, then I am on set to make those decisions and ensure that the magazine gets what is required. I also like the social side of it, working with incredibly talented people, and I take a keen interest in all aspects of shoots, from styling and glam, through to how individual photographers light and work the subject matter.
Had you spent much time working from home before now?
No. As I’ve said, my job is so collaborative that working remotely isn’t normally something I would even consider.
Do you have an office or dedicated working space at home?
I am lucky to have a large south-facing room on the first floor that has become the office. I have far more desk space that at work (2 metre long up-cycled plyboard!) and it’s light and airy. 27” iMac, small laser printer and flatbed scanner complete the set-up. I did have to buy an office chair right at the start of lockdown which I managed to get delivered the very next day, so all-in-all it’s working pretty well for me.
How have you had to adapt your old routine?
Obviously, meetings have to be scheduled rather than happen ad hoc as some used to be. I screenshare when running through visual ideas or edits with the editor, which makes life helpful. We use Slack for instant communication as there’s a lot of back and forth between the picture desk and the art department and as long as people are quick to respond, it works well. Other than that, the routine is largely the same. When you have to get a magazine published week in, week out, there’s no time to take your foot off the pedal. It’s a little clunkier in places, but as someone who has worked all the way through lockdown I appreciate how lucky I am to have had a job to go to each day.
Do you still get dressed for work?
Yes! Though the iron has been furloughed. There’s only so much I can do…
Do you enjoy onscreen meetings?
They are fine – it just requires a bit of etiquette as over-talking just does not fly in the virtual environment.
Did you spend much time choosing a background for video calls?
I played around with some early on, but actually I can’t be bothered with them. It’s a fairly minimally decorated space I am in, so there’s nothing to hide! And my dogs make an occasional cameo appearance too.
Do you think you’ve learned anything from the experience?
Well, the obvious one is that despite certain limitations, it is of course possible to keep doing the work I love, from home. Not ideal and I miss the camaraderie of the office environment but it’s do-able.
Do you have any tips on getting the most out of working from home?
Good ergonomics for your desk/workstation is crucial. Invest in a really good office chair as posture is so important. Ensure your screen is set to the correct height and angle. Take regular breaks and try not to work beyond your usual end time. I check in with the designers just before 6pm and unless there’s anything urgent, they know I am clocking off for the day.
Do you think you might stick with it?
Not unless I have to. As mentioned, my job is hugely collaborative so long-term I’d prefer to be getting back into that office environment.
Do you think this is going to change the way many of us work for good?
For sure. For those who primarily work from a fixed desk space, don’t need the face-to-face and can continue doing their job efficiently from home, then why not? Shooting in enclosed spaces/studios and so on is more of a challenge in the short to medium-term, but with good hygiene discipline and spatial awareness/respect, then shoots shouldn’t be a problem. We will have to adapt and change some of our ways, but humans are generally pretty good at that…
Portrait by Julian Broad.