People working make ideal subjects for documentary photography as they have a purpose, they are almost always active and frequently that activity is visually interesting. Working people also dress for their role, frequently in clothes that reflect the region as well as the task. During my work at the Oktoberfest I was very conscious of trying to include the army of people who cook the food, serve the beer, and even keep the peace. Many of these photographs made it into my final edit for the book "Fest", so in a sense this post is a retrospective look at some of the photos and what I found particularly interesting about them.
I start with this study in pink, a the three people working at the ice cream bar having a chat after serving a customer. This photograph continually tricks my eye into believing they are standing behind a screen, when in fact the screen is the aprons they are wearing. I also like the sense that someone is out of shot waiting for delivery of the second ice cream carried by the lady with the dirndl.
This shot did not make it into the book, but is still one I like very much as it catches the staff of one of the multitude of booths around the Wiesn catching a break and having a bit of a laugh I would have liked to be closer and make the workers a more obvious subject, however, part of the original goal for this shot was to capture the sign with all the different Schuss (shots) that could be added to the coffee, just in case for any reason a customer still needs more alcohol.
The hardest workers of all are the waiters and waitresses inside the tents. Not only do they have to carry up to 10 2kg glasses full of beer they have to do it in within a raucous crowd of drunkenly unsteady people. When someone yells "Vorsicht" very loudly immediately behind you it is a waiter on their way with more beer and it is time to move quickly. They make good money, payment is on a piece work basis, they earn 10 percent of whatever they sell plus any tips. 2 weeks at the fest can be the equivalent of a couple months elsewhere. These jobs are jealously guarded and can be handed down through the generations.
Also hard at work are the men serving beer. They are usually men as the beer is gravity served from wooden barrels that require immense strength to move when full. When a new barrel arrives a spile is driven in by a wooden mallet. Although the Oktoberfest is a highly slick operation it still follows time honored traditions.
A quiet spot before the mad rushthat will inevitably come. A waitress is taking a break, but the ever vigilant security guard has his eyes peeled. They are nicknamed black sherifs as they always dress in black, and used to have a reputation for casual brutality. I think things are better now, but 20 years ago when I first started going to the fest, you did not mess with these guys.
It never fails to amaze me how trays full of food manage to be safely carried through the throng of people. I guess there must be some accidents, but none that I have seen.
I was also very conscious of wanting to capture the other group of people at the fest, the police and other emrgency services. In this case these two cops were shaking this guy down, no idea what for and was not going to hang around for them to see me. Generally I have found the Munich police to be pretty clam about being photographed, although normally I ask permission.
This is a job I do not envy. The red cross supplies volunteers who take care of the more drunken people at the fest. I suspect they are a little more than the St John's Ambulance Brigade back home. They have stretchers on wheels with a cover to protect the victim on the way back to the on site hospital. Although much of the work is dealing with the dangerously drunk, there are a lot of leg and arm injuries from people falling whilst dancing on the benches in the tents. We all do it, we all get drunk, we all fall over, some don't get up again.
Did I mention not messing with security, well:
My last two images of people working are of workers not working. In the first a cook has a crafty fag early in the morning ebfore the event really gets going. In the second the ubiquitous need to send a text message at every possible moment. The other side of the stand was very busy...
A slightly different take on what the project possibly had in mind. I am still far more interested in using this course to develop the skills needed to engage in street photography, than spending time doing arranged photo sessions with people I know. I have experience of that type of photography, this more candid work is where I want to be at present.