Anthony Morrell : A Portrait of an Ayrshire Blacksmith

“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.”
— Irving Penn


There are many ways to create a portrait for a client, whether your remit is to capture a photograph which is naturally true to life, a bit more polished & contemporary or highly experimental in nature. This all depends on your relationship with the client, their personal tastes and their faith in your work as a paying customer & as an individual.

On this particular shoot, I had no real knowledge of who Anthony was apart from what I could lift from his professional output. I was also very limited by time as I had other portraits to make on the day. So, with this in mind, I decided to take ten to fifteen minutes to get to know Anthony’s business; wandering around his yard & exploring his workshops in order to form an image in my head and to find a good background for my composition. I then spent five minutes chatting to him about the processes of smelting & reforming lead for use as ingots which informed my choice of how the portrait should look. 




Given that the mid-day sun was positioned almost directly overhead I thought about how I could use this to my advantage. I knew that I wanted to use a dark background so that Anthony’s weathered features would be exaggerated & I also knew that I wanted to showcase the definition in his strong, ash covered features. To achieve these fundamental elements, I positioned Anthony in one of the workshop doorways. The workshop itself gave me the dark backdrop & the overhead sun illuminated the face; with the skipped bunnet providing a nice bit of shadow from the top of the face down.

Once I found my composition, I then used my video light which features light-temperature controls to extend my shadows and to fill a few select areas across the face. I like to use this light, as it offers me a constant light source which I can then manipulate to fit a composition when I’m required to work quickly. I set the light to cast some natural ‘warm’ light across Anthony’s face as this was more in tune with the saturation offered by the sunlight. 

I guided Anthony through the process by asking him to smile through his eyes more than via his mouth which meant I could capture the natural character in his personality. I worked very quickly, capturing a series of shots in quick succession in order to maintain the organic sense of warmth and personability that exuded from him - especially after I mentioned that the shots reminded me of the old pictures of Fred Dibnah.. haha!

Though this shoot was rather rough & ready, limited for time & a tad rushed, I captured on that day one of my favourite photographs to date (& an example of why I love Portraiture); a beautiful portrait of a hard-working & highly skilled man in his element - amongst his soot ridden workshops, heavy duty & well used machinery & beautifully crafted ironworks. Needless to say, when my Grandmother expressed a desire to install wrought-iron fences in her front garden I recommended she contacted Anthony Morrell at Morrell’s Forge in Maidens, Ayrshire.

If you've got a passion for the art of smithing, please show some support by visiting Anthony's business page at :


Anthony Morrell - wm.jpg