Photographing Essential Britain

Charles Boadu - Cleaning Operative, InitialWe’ve just launched our Essential Britain campaign to recognise the three million support service workers who contribute a whopping £115 billion a year to the economy. If that sounds like a lot of money it is; comprising 10% of Britain’s GDP.

Rentokil Initial employs over 60,000 colleagues across the globe who work within the service support sector, providing first class services to many leading brands in the UK. Perhaps you have noticed the Initial logo in the washrooms of a fast food chain, or spotted someone polishing a sign on the underground? Maybe you’ve seen a City Link courier delivering parcels. If your office or shopping centre has plants there’s a chance our Ambius colleagues have created it.

To celebrate the fabulous work the invisible army of service support workers achieve across the UK we commissioned award winning portrait photographer Matthew Lloyd to snap our service colleagues in action. Find out more about the leading photographer with our Q&A:

Q. Why did you get involved with Rentokil Initial and the Essential Britain Campaign?

A. I liked that the campaign celebrates real people and real Britain. It was a chance to feature people who are not traditionally acknowledged or seen; certainly not in photographic terms. From a personal point of view, it was also a great opportunity to produce an in-depth set of portraits with a strong central theme throughout. That’s something any photographer would love.

Carol Scates, Service Technician - AmbiusQ. What were you trying to convey with the pictures?

A. The campaign was devised as a celebration and an opportunity to highlight the people who play vital but unknown roles in Britain. I had little knowledge of the support services industry and how much it contributes so much before I took on the photo assignment.  I quickly came to realise though that these are the people that make our lives easier, cleaner and more manageable.  They perform an invaluable role without getting the credit that they deserve. I saw this as an opportunity to highlight their worth. I think the portraits work well individually but come to life as a whole, showing the breadth and depth of their work, which most of us take for granted.

Q. What did you think of the subjects?

A. They were a great bunch to work with and I really enjoyed spending so much time with them. They might not say the same of me though!  I imagine most of them were a bit bemused by someone lugging huge bits of kit and lighting and asking them to pose – but they never complained and were often far more understanding than some ‘celebrity’ shoots I’ve done.

Gary Williams, Driver City LinkQ. Were they similar characters?

A. No, there were huge differences in personalities.  Some were real extroverts and found it incredibly easy being in front of the camera while others were much quieter. The thing that they all had in common though was real pride in their work and a fantastic work ethic.  They do a tough job without fuss and it’s that stoicism and quiet efficiency that really marked them out.  I hope that the pictures get this across clearly as they’re the biggest take-outs from my time with everyone.

Q. Can you give any specific examples of this pride and work ethic?

A. They were too many to mention but if I was to choose one,  it would probably be the specialist cleaners – Michael, Mark, Lewis and Marcin – who I followed in a house that hadn’t been cleaned in 21 years.  There was so much waste that I couldn’t imagine even starting the task let alone finishing it. The guys just took it all in their stride, finishing two weeks and 26 tonnes of rubbish later. It’s that kind of no nonsense approach that was a feature of all the people I photographed.

Q. How did this assignment differ to your usual work?

Stephen Kirley, Rentokil Initial Specialist HygieneA. The biggest difference was the time I had at my disposal.  When I’m working for the papers or newswires, speed is often the biggest concern.  A good example is when I photographed Tony Blair in Jerusalem.  For that shoot, I had no time and the sun was already setting. When his minders said I only had five minutes, they really meant it, so it was a frantic process trying to get everything sorted. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a real rush and I really enjoy the high-profile work. This project was completely different and more interesting from a social point of view.  I had time to chat informally with the subjects and get to know them on a more personal level.  The high-profile figures that I photograph understandably don’t have that kind of time and the whole process is managed closely.  This assignment gave me the freedom to do something in depth.

Q. What camera do you use?

A. Cannon 5D Mark II

Q. Do you have any photography heroes?

A. I don’t really think of photography in those terms.  I’m a fan of a great photo rather than specific photographers. I’m not wedded to any one genre or style of photography and am fortunate in my position as a freelancer to cater to my diverse tastes.

We would love to see your photographs of your friends or colleagues who work within the support service industry and will be giving away a camera to the best snap. Please upload your photographs to the Essential Britain Flickr page. Matthew Lloyd will be judging the entries and will select one lucky winner of a Canon 5d Mark II plus the chance to work with him on a photo-shoot.

The full set of photographs can be seen at

  1. Leyton Jay

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