December 3, 2013 Métier

Laura Braun’s new collection of photographs of small businesses in London and the people who run them, Métier, has just been published by Paper Tigers Books. There is a book launch tonight at The Photographers’ Gallery in London – all are welcome! The photographs in this collection and the stories that accompany them are each…

January 30, 2012 Bata in Essex and the Decline of the Third England

Essex is a maligned county, present in popular mythology as a home for troublesome women – from Matthew Hopkins’ 17th century witches, to the sexually provocative but apparently stupid 1980s Essex Girls, and today’s primped women of The Only Way is Essex. When J. B. Priestley wrote English Journey he was exercised by some troublesome…

September 25, 2011 How to Use ‘Mad Men’ to Think About Advertising

Towards the end of the first series of the Emmy-award winning US drama, Mad Men, set in the fictional world of the New York advertising agency, Stirling Cooper, in the early 1960s, there is a scene which offers a seductive vision of the work of advertising practitioners and their role in weaving commercial fables. The…

October 29, 2010 Thirty Years on from ‘Women on the Line’: Researching Gender and Work, Panel Report from Work, Employment and Society Conference, Brighton, September 2010

The republication in 2009 of Miriam Glucksmann’s ethnography of factory work, Women on the Line (originally published in 1982 under the pseudonym, Ruth Cavendish) was the starting point for a panel discussion on researching gender and work at the Work, Employment and Society Conference, which took place in Brighton in September 2010. I approached Miriam…

August 20, 2010 Conference report: IVSA Bologna 2010

The 2010 International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA) Conference was held at the world’s oldest university, Università di Bologna, in Italy. Bologna la Rossa (named for its red roofs and historically leftist politics) is an utterly beautiful city, with porticos along the streets enabling walkers to wander sheltered from the sunshine. This annual conference is a…

June 1, 2010 Work and Realism

One of the most effective and realistic depictions of manual work in cinema is found in a scene in the avant-garde film Pravda (1970) by Jean-Luc Godard (officially by the Groupe Dziga Vertov), well-described in Monaco (1976). This is a short piece about the events in May 1968 in what was then Czechoslovakia. Whereas most…

May 18, 2010 The Port of Felixstowe

A few weeks ago, I went in search of fish at Felixstowe (on the Suffolk coast, UK), took a wrong turn and found myself trying to drive into the Port. In the few minutes it took to ask for directions at the security gate (where the men were very friendly and helpful), several lorries came…

April 28, 2010 What does The Working Lives of Londoners collection of photographs tell us about the working lives of Londoners?

The Working Lives of Londoners is a series of photographs by Harriet Armstrong on display at City Hall (22 March to 7 May 2010) which shows Londoners ‘going about their daily routine in the capital’ (The Guardian). A selection of images was published in The Guardian in March, but more can be seen on Harriet…

January 6, 2010 Mesrine: the career of a killer

Dawn and I recently watched Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy Number 1, a semi-fictionalised account of the life of Jacques Mesrine, France’s most famous bank robber. Apart from a brief period working in an architect’s practice, Mesrine (played by Vincent Cassel) made a living from illegal activities. A professional criminal has to do…

September 2, 2009 The Wire

Watch it and love it. As a story about gangs, drugs, inequality and social/institutional and legislative failure to protect poor communities, The Wire is astounding telly. In portraying the interconnections between the structures of power and the powerless – and showing how these are not always embedded in formal institutions – it comments