Behind the lens: photographing the people of PMI

20 Dec 2019 · 3 min read
Over the past 365 days, award-winning photographer George Brooks has travelled far and wide to discover what it means to work for the company.
George Brooks and his dog in the countryside

When the Sustainability team from Philip Morris International (PMI) called photographer George Brooks last year to ask him to visit 14 countries in two months for an assignment, there was a long pause.

And then he asked: “When do I start?”

George, 57, has won many awards in his career, which has ranged from taking portraits of Chief Financial Officers in their top-floor offices to capturing Australian truck drivers in the dusty outback.

When he was commissioned to photograph PMI’s operations around the world, he was curious to see what it is was like to work for a large multinational best known for producing cigarettes.

George admits that he found it “probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life”. He eventually broke up the 60-day shoot – in which he took more than 30,000 photographs – over the course of a year to fit around his busy schedule.

Some of the countries included Brazil, Malawi, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Colombia, Greece, and Italy, “and everywhere I was met by humble, genuine people,” says George. “Office workers, farmers, laborers who are truly dedicated to their job. Most of all, I found a company that really takes care of its people.”

By his own admission, George says that he “thought it was going to be just another corporate gig”.

But then he visited tobacco farms in rural areas of South America, and production facilities in the heart of Europe “and the common denominator is that I found people who care, who are emotionally invested in what they do,” he says.

“My takeaway is that, if a company treats its employees with dignity and with respect, you create a good working environment, and people will do their job well. That shouldn’t matter if you are a tobacco picker or the CEO of the company.”

A tobacco farm worker in Brazil

Lunchtime for tobacco pickers in Mexico

Work hard, laugh hard: Two workers have a little fun in front of the camera in our factory in Greece

A greener Indonesia: Women recycle plastic for a PMI-funded sustainable program

A woman in Indonesia shows how she managed to market her tomato sauce thanks to a PMI-funded business program

Two laborers in Mozambique fertilize the tobacco crop

Workers in Mozambique build an open barn where they’ll leave tobacco leaves to dry

Not just tobacco: A Mozambican worker waters his other crops, including cabbages and tomatoes

A Mozambican laborer about to hang the tobacco leaves out to dry

Two farmers in Mozambique ensure their other crops – including maize – receive all the necessary nutrients

A worker sorts the tobacco in our Neuchâtel factory

A scientist in PMI’s R&D center in Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Three generations of Brazilian farmers inspect their tobacco leaves with PMI’s representative

A Brazilian farmer ready to sort dried tobacco

Two Brazilian technicians launch a drone which will assess the condition of tobacco

Recycling of a heat-not-burn device in Japan