Christy, South­west Air­lines’ — Brian Finke

I was look­ing for images of ‘body­work’ recently for a sem­i­nar dis­cus­sion with stu­dents and came across Brian Finke’s col­lec­tion on Flight Atten­dants (see: I was drawn to this pho­to­graph because of the cir­cu­lar­ity of the dif­fer­ent forms of labour it reveals. Body­work as the work of main­tain­ing a body in the right shape for the job (Shilling, 1993) – also a form of ‘aes­thetic labour’ (Witz et al, 2003) — is clear, quite lit­er­ally, in the pre-defined form of the eye­brow. At the same time, body­work in Wolkowitz’s (2002) elab­o­ra­tion of the term, where one person’s body is the site of another’s person’s labour, is shown in the hands under­tak­ing the shap­ing of the eye­brow. But this looks like some­thing that’s hap­pen­ing (or staged as hap­pen­ing) between col­leagues. So it also sug­gests a moment at work infused with inti­macy, a back-stage time of infor­mal prepa­ra­tion and rela­tion­ship, before the air­craft inte­rior itself becomes a for­mal work­space and the per­for­mance really begins.

Shilling, C. (1993) The Body and Social The­ory, Lon­don: Sage.
Witz, A, C Warhurst, D Nick­son (2003) ‘The labour of aes­thet­ics and the aes­thet­ics of orga­ni­za­tion’ Orga­ni­za­tion, 10(1): 33–54.
Wolkowitz, C. (2002) ‘The social rela­tions of body work’, Work, Employ­ment and Soci­ety 16(3): 497–510.