Working with the working man

Simon Isaac by Niki Cornish

Simon Isaac by Niki Cornish - Credit: Archant

Simon Isaac has put together an eclectic mix of photographs featuring working men in situ as part of a new exhibition at The Forum in Southend on Sea this month. Caroline Foster met the man behind the lens

Beekeeper by Simon Issac

Beekeeper by Simon Issac - Credit: Archant

With the developments in digital technology, pretty much anyone who uses a modern mobile phone has access to a digital camera. But if you think photography is just a process of point and shoot, Essex-based photographer Simon Isaac will beg to differ. Simon never leaves his Westcliff home without at least one camera, but more often than not it takes him many of his escapades to find the desolate, the derelict and the abandoned — themes that inspire him most. Vacant buildings, discarded belongings and even solitary individuals form the basis of his vast and varied photographic collection.

‘I try to find places where other people do not go and I try to photograph people that others would be afraid to,’ says Simon.

Simon owns at least ten different cameras, both film and digital, and has numerous different lenses. ‘One of my favourite cameras is a Hasselblad medium format film, I also use a Leica digital and I have a broad spectrum of Fuji cameras too,’ adds Simon. ‘My first camera was a Ricoh 35, which I got when I was about ten or 11 years old, and I’ve been taking photographs ever since.’

Simon was born and grew up in Wales. At 16, he joined the RAF and after four years in service went to work for a brewery in Brighton. In more recent years, Simon has been calling on his creative talents as the strategy partner for Zero Above, a digital marketing company based in Bures, on the Essex/Suffolk border, but when he is not pursuing clients, his love of the outdoors has taken him across the globe.

Although Simon may have visited many of the world’s most iconic cities, including London, Paris and Berlin, his candid shots capture, let’s say, the less appealing sights of these tourist hot spots. Looking beyond the signs of discarded rubbish, the graffiti walls and the homeless souls, Simon’s photographs depict atmosphere and intrigue.

Using a combination of techniques, whether black and white, bohemian or blurred edge focus or a framed or isolated image, in his own words Simon’s collection, ‘is a representation of his own personality and the natural emotions of joy, pain, the mundane and the everyday’.

Most Read

The concept of the mundane and every day has also led to the theme of Simon’s latest collection. Entitled Working Man, this solo exhibition at The Forum in the new library in central Southend will display some 20 to 30 photographs or working men at their daily grind. However, this collection is not as it might first appear: a farrier, a farmer, a racing car driver, a solider, a sushi chef, an urban composer and a drag queen are just some of the featured jobbers. The Working Man collection is presented in all manner of sizes and combinations including black and white and colour, landscape, portrait, posed or working in situ.

‘The idea behind the project was to capture the essence of what they do and turn it into an art form,’ says Simon.

‘I wanted to portray the focus of each worker’s job, but not necessarily in the concept of what you’d expect to see.’ n

Find Out More

The Working Man exhibition takes place from June 27 to July 13 at The Forum in Southend during normal opening hours. Further information is available at or visit