Overhead Photos of Different Professionals Who Work with Their Hands

Bird's Eye View Hand Photography by Sanwal Deen

Kirsten, a florist.

We spend much of our lives working—more than a third, in fact. Though this isn't the only thing that defines us, it’s normal for our identities to be closely tied to the professions we pursue and the tasks we perform on a near-daily basis. Photographer Sanwal Deen explores this relationship through his revealing photography series titled Work. In it, we get a bird’s eye view of individuals as they complete different tasks related to their careers. Often, they may seem like mundane, menial work—like that of an automobile mechanic tightening a bolt—but Deen’s hand photography series sheds light on the professional significance of these overlooked tasks.

Deen uses his photography as a vehicle for celebrating individuality and acknowledging the things we share that make us human.“I have always had a fascination with desks and workspaces,” he tell us in an email. “I thought that looking at different work spaces throughout the world might be a good way to get my message across.” He goes on to make a point about the universality of mankind by explaining, “A butcher in Columbus, Ohio may use a very different set of tools, and operate in a very different environment than a butcher in China, but in the end, both are doing the same act and are most likely using their hands that in that act.” Through these similarities, Deen is making the point that we’re not as different as we often think.

Capturing this unique form of hand photography was a technical feat. The elaborate set ups were often done during active business hours, and sometimes, Deen admits, he got in the way. “Finding a way to quickly set up, take the picture, and leave without causing too much trouble was the hardest part of this process!”

Deen is just beginning Work and has big goals for it moving forward. Currently, his photographs are all shot in the United States, but he’s planning on going to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia to create a diverse array of images. Afterwards, the photographs, along with interviews, will be compiled into a book.

Photographer Sanwal Deen's fascinating hand photography offers an insightful bird's eye view of people at work.

Sanwal, a photographer and writer.

Hand Photography

Perry, a baker.

By showing their work spaces, he celebrates this shared human experience across a diverse range of professions.

Bird's Eye View Hand Photography by Sanwal Deen

Martha, a pianist

Bird's Eye View Hand Photography by Sanwal Deen

Nicholas, a typesetter.

Hand Photography

Ralph, a cobbler.

Bird's Eye View Hand Photography by Sanwal Deen

The Fish, a Japanese Taiko player.

Bird's Eye View Hand Photography by Sanwal Deen

Greene, a butcher.

Photography of Hands by Sanwal Deen

Stone, an auto mechanic.

Bird's Eye View Hand Photography by Sanwal Deen

Maggie, a writer/historian.

Bird's Eye View Hand Photography by Sanwal Deen

Allison, a bookmaker.

Bird's Eye View Hand Photography by Sanwal Deen

Audrey, a hair stylist.

Sanwal Deen: Website

My Modern Met granted permission to use images by Sanwal Deen.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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