S5: Around the World in 80 Fabrics
S5: Around the World in 80 Fabrics
Photographer and LUMIX Ambassador Jamie House shoots ethical fabrics to help promote sustainable fashion
“Fast fashion” is the clothing industry's business model of recreating high fashion trends at a low cost and then rushing them to retail stores while demand is still high. This trend has left a footprint in the deterioration of our natural ecosystems, as well as instituting poor working conditions and unfair wages.
Around the World in 80 Fabrics (ATW80F) is a a 501 (c)(3) non-profit with a mission to celebrate the biodiversity of nature-friendly fabrics worldwide and humanity's connection to our living ecosystems/world. Through the nonprofit, they focus on raising awareness of the environmental, climate, and social impacts of petroleum-based fast-fashion lifestyles. They are currently assembling a 21st century library of planet-friendly fabrics - from indigenous barkcloth producers of Uganda to microbial dyes formed in labs in the US, to climate beneficial cotton in Oaxaca - through multidisciplinary outreach programs. To illustrate the organization’s work, photographer and LUMIX Ambassador Jamie House has captured all images and video for ATW80F with LUMIX S5 cameras.
Shooting with a LUMIX S5, photographer Jamie House using a branch to create additional shadow and texture in her fabric images.
Telling Visual Stories
House was interested in working on documentary stories outside her hometown of Dallas after being cooped up during the pandemic. In December 2021, she was brought on the ATW80F project by Outreach Director Lesli Robertson, who was looking for a photographer who could consistently shoot professional photos of fabrics. “They needed a photographer that would shoot consistently so the fabrics could not only stand as individual pieces, but also as a collection,” revealed House. “You would be able to see the connection between the fabrics visually, but also for their sustainability.”
Before starting on the ATW80F project, House and Robertson did a test shoot where they worked with barkcloth from Uganda and a silk scarf from Madagascar. In their tests, they decided that they wanted the fabrics to look like they were in their original environment as much as you could in a studio environment. To accomplish this, House did a “flat lay” where the fabrics were laid on the ground and she built a scene within the frame using light that emulated sunlight.
For the Ugandan bark cloth, House wanted the fabric to look as if it were in its original environment.
For the barkcloth, House and Robertson "Googled" the area in Uganda where the fabric is made. “We noticed that the soil has like a red clay-like quality, and in some of the old pictures they lay the fabrics out on the ground, and hold them down to dry and stretch out. “What's really great about working with Jamie is she has this ability to make things look sexy, and make things look alive,” revealed Robertson.
The LUMIX S5
House shot the ATW80F project with the LUMIX S5, a compact full-frame mirrorless camera with a 24.5mp sensor. “I chose the S5 because I needed more flexibility in how they were going to use the photos,” explained House. “They’re using the photos for the website, so you don’t need the biggest files, but they’re also printing them for exhibitions in Melbourne and The Smithsonian, so they needed to be able to blow them up as big as possible.”
Before the S5, House’s go-to LUMIX camera was the DC-G9, which contains a 20.3mp Micro Four Thirds sensor in a small form factor. “I had been waiting for a slightly smaller form factor for full-frame from LUMIX because I have smaller hands and I really like being super mobile, not having to lug around a large camera body,” revealed House. “As soon as the S5 dropped, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s exactly what I was waiting for so transitioning from the G9 to the S5 was seamless.'”
House used the LUMIX S5 for the ATW80F project, capturing 24.2 megapixel RAW files at 200 ISO.
With her S5, House captured 24.2 megapixel RAW files (6000x4000) at 200 ISO. Because she was shooting objects that were laid flat on the floor, she wasn’t looking for shallow depth of field, so she generally worked between f/9 all the way up to f/16.
For lensing, she mainly stuck to the Lumix S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 MACRO O.I.S. Lens for L-mount for consistency with no filtration. “I tried to keep the focal length consistent so it wouldn’t look like we were jumping around,” said House. “Often, I will use a polarizing filter when I have some high shine, or for chrome products in the frame, but since most of the stuff was matte, I didn't really feel the need.” For focusing, she used the S5’s 1-Area autofocus feature and used the touchscreen to move her focus point. Since she’s shooting with the lens stopped down, her entire frame remained consistently in focus.
To light the fabrics, House chose strobes over natural sunlight to keep a consistent look throughout the day. She employed Godox strobes because they’re not only lightweight and mobile, but also affordable. “One of my favorite styles to light is just a bare bulb with a seven inch reflector,” explained House. “I find that gives you kind of the most sunlight look because it's a small light source that you can direct and move 'the sun' around to different times of day. It would be much harder to shoot at an f/9, f/10, or f/11 with continuous light and have a hard light source unless you have a really beefy continuous lighting source.”
LUMIX Tether is a valuable software tool that House uses that allows her to view, control, and shoot with her S5.
One tool that House used on set was LUMIX Tether, a free software that allows you to view, control, and shoot with up to 12 cameras from your Mac or PC, connected via USB-C, or on your network. “I cannot function without it, especially when you have clients on set,” revealed House. “Everyone – art directors, makeup artists, hairstylists – all want to make sure their work and ideas are coming across. To be able to look at the image and say it’s 1/3 of a stop too bright, I can just bump it down a bit, or maybe the focus is a little off, I can shift the focus point without going back to the camera.
“It's really nice to have that Live View option as well,” continued House. “If you are trying to move a scene around and you still want to make sure it's in frame, it's nice to not have to take a picture and then go back and look. You can just automatically see with the live view like whether or not your scene is reading right in in camera before you have to pop the flash.”
House shot all of the photos in Camera RAW and uses Adobe Bridge and Lightroom to filter through everything. She then created mock up previews to send to the ATW80F team before making any final decisions. From there she’ll take her Camera RAW files into PhotoShop to finetune, punch up colors, and brighten or darken the fabrics. According to House, her photos for the project required minimal Photoshop work. “Since we had four or five different people on set, we would catch anything we didn't like, which again is another reason why the Lumix Tether software is so great.”
ATW80F has many projects on their docket this year, including a collaboration taking place in Morocco, between the Ain Leuh Cooperative, Artisan Project, ATW80F, The Microbe Institute, and Jude Lab at Bard College. Funded by Daughters for Earth, the collective team of researchers will partner with regional weavers to identify and use local plants and microbes for new natural dye methods. This and similar collaborative/research projects led by ATW80F will take place this year in Mexico, Scottish Orkney Islands, Kenya, and Uganda. In May, ATW80F will host an interactive exhibition in Telluride, Colorado as a part of Mountainfilm. Through each project, the team works to highlight fascinating fabrics and the people behind them.
“It’s truly a dream project,” House concluded. “Getting to work alongside these amazing women and hear their stories has been incredible. Each piece has its own story woven into it by talented artisans from around the globe and helping to spread awareness to them has been an honor. The size and scope of ATW80F has grown and multiplied since January. I cannot wait to see what they do next.”
Fabric Photos and Origins
Species: Bromelia hieronymi, common name is chaguar. Maker: unknown. Handmade from a traditional technique of looping and twisting fibers to form net-like fabric. Sourced from Nuraxi, a company that works with indigenous Wichi women in Gran Chaco, Argentina.
Species: Raphia sp., common name is raffia. Maker: unknown. Woven on a 45° angle loom then hand embroidered. Sourced from a market in Kampala, Uganda. Country of origin, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For more information on ATW80F, please visit their website at www.atw80fabrics.com.
For more information on photographer Jamie House, visit her website at https://jamiehousephoto.com/.