25th November 2009 A Job for Life

I recently went to the work­shop of a dou­ble bass maker and repairer. My friend was tak­ing his bat­tered bass there to see what parts might be glued and oth­er­wise made to hold together again. ‘Can’t you clean it up whilst you’re at it?’ I asked naively, attend­ing to the fin­ish rather than the sound.…

20th November 2009 Learning to Clean Teeth

I toured the den­tal lab at the Uni­ver­sity of Essex’s Southend cam­pus, and this set of ‘prac­tice teeth’ caught my eye. Before stu­dents are allowed to touch a patient, they get a set of false teeth caked in fake plaque to hone their scrap­ing tech­nique on. I thought that the hard part would be deal­ing with…


Visual Soci­ol­ogy Inter­na­tional Visual Soci­ol­ogy Asso­ci­a­tion: http://www.visualsociology.org/ British Soci­o­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion Visual Soci­ol­ogy Study Group: http://www.visualsociology.org.uk/ Visual Soci­ol­ogy, A Field Guide: http://visualsociology.wordpress.com/ Soci­o­log­i­cal Images: http://sociologicalimages.blogspot.com/search/label/work

13th November 2009 The Virtuous Journalist

Nik Rose’s con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion of the late mod­ern self as being com­pelled to engage in the active gov­er­nance of the soul has been provoca­tive for those who study inter­me­di­ary work. Inter­nal­is­ing norms of self-exploitation, to work harder, longer, faster, to let work dom­i­nate ‘the social’

12th November 2009 The Piano Tuner

What to wear? This is a fun­da­men­tal ques­tion of piano-tuning. As a piano tuner you will be in other people’s beau­ti­ful homes, walk­ing across their white car­pets, work­ing in their immac­u­late liv­ing rooms or stud­ies. They expect you to be smart, but, on occa­sion, you need to rum­mage about in the filth­i­est of instru­ments to…

8th November 2009 The Small Things That Matter: Walking

I just wanted to notice the impor­tance for work of some­thing as small and taken for granted as walk­ing. I thought about it when I saw the ret­ro­spec­tive on Richard Long at Tate Britain. Richard Long works through walk­ing. Early pieces include his walk in an ‘unspoiled’ meadow to cre­ate a line.

6th November 2009 The Right Trousers

  Glue and sil­i­con, paint and var­nish, grout and wood-filler. Traces on his clothes. The trousers espe­cially tell the story of my friend’s most recent jobs. There was that shower to fix urgently in Hack­ney one night last week, and the bath­room to sort out after a would-be plumber with too many tools and too…

2nd November 2009 Road Work

Sweep­ing the M1, 1959 I find this photo com­pelling. The M1, high­point of Mod­ern Britain, and the roadsweeper, with brush in hand. We have never been modern.

Being a Navvy

It is 1973 and I am stand­ing in Ilford Sta­tion on a Sun­day after­noon where the track used to be. I’m work­ing as a navvy and accord­ing to my payslip I am a plate-layer. We’ve been here nearly twelve hours already and the job is nowhere near fin­ished — we need to get the new…