Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of taking photographs of SME Ltd. A world class engineering firm that has a fascinating heritage. Based in Steyning, West Sussex.
The Scale Model Equipment Company founded by Mr. Alastair Robertson-Aikman in 1946. Began as a designer and manufacturer of precision models for the exhibition and model engineering trade. The company expanded and diversified into engineering subcontracting, producing precision aircraft parts for prestigious companies such as Rolls Royce, Hawker & Martin Baker. The company went onto design pick up arms and turntables for the high end audio market and today continues to manufacture highly complex precision components.
Taking place over two days the photography for SME captured both the heritage aspects of the company alongside the modern precision engineering. It was clear on my first visit to the factory that the company was unique from its 1950’s era architecture to the ethos of hand crafted engineering alongside cutting edge lathes and milling machines.
Everyone I met had a passion for the company and engineering. I was impressed also to see that the founder Mr Robertson-Aikman’s original office remained untouched retaining the original decor of the 1960’s. Most of the product photography took place here and it was like stepping back in time, with wonderful objects from the era such as a desk fan, intercom and telephone. As well as the original furniture and furnishings.
The photographs taken were primarily for a redesign of the SME website which was recently launched. With a long shot list the photo shoot presented many challenges. I was asked to photograph exterior shots of the factory, many of the older machines, precision components and audio products on a white screen and environmental imagery of the modern factory machines. The challenges consisted mainly of working in a confined space and shooting the modern aspects of machine tools which were entirely housed behind panelling.