Our pick of the photos submitted for the fifth week of the 52 Weeks at Redeye challenge on Flickr - images responding to the title At Work. Chosen by Redeye's Paul Herrmann
Work is ever more behind closed doors. Each time you sign in as a visitor to a workplace, you probably also, without realising it, agree to respect the confidentiality of the company. There's a barrier for the resourceful photographer to surmount. But perhaps a bigger one is the move away from work being about the physical object to the growing intangibility of the service sector.
Here's something interesting. If you look up "GDP sector composition", you can start to get an idea of what kind of work goes on where in the world. France, followed by the US and other northern European countries, leads the world in services as a percentage of total activity, making it perhaps the most "post-industrial" nation. The UK holds the distinction, if you can call it that, of having the lowest percentage from agriculture. Look up industrial production growth rate and the UK is also near the bottom of that list, de-industrialising more quickly than any other G20 country except (just) Italy. But even in China, the world's manufacturer, services GDP is drawing level with industry.
Magnum Photos and Multistory just launched a major commission called "Open for Business" that, perhaps oddly, given the context, chose to concentrate on UK manufacturing. It's arguably more photogenic than the services that make up over three quarters of the UK's GDP, but it's certainly not the main story.
Lee Friedlander's book that gave its name to the week's challenge, At Work, explored the move from manufacturing to services. According to a review online, "The transition from making physical objects to being a data entry device for a machine seems to be accompanied by a transition in the faces of the workers - the early factory workers look dirty and tired, but they also appear human, immediately present in front of the camera - but the new workers all seem to be staring at some long lost horizon, zombies, endlessly pushing buttons, hoping to find the magic sequence that will release them from the drugged state they have arrived in…"
The photos you submitted (below) covered a pleasingly diverse range of interpretations of the theme, though there's not much in the way of traditional manufacturing or agriculture. David Ayres tracked down a boat repairer in Devon working on a replacement mast for a trawler that's well into its ninth decade. The repairer is not much younger. Neville Chapman shows us the somewhat basic staff canteen of a mine in Sri Lanka. Though actually, I've worked in places in England with worse facilities. Glyn Akroyd's lone cockler has a stunning view, but since the Morecambe disaster it's hard to look at this the same way.
Much else really falls into the category of services, but the range of work is vast. Lloyd Spencer (Briggate.com) gives us a classic image: the overworked young women of Starbucks, surrounded by chip'n'pin machines, and a tips box with only coppers (are the people of Leeds really that mean?). In total contrast Sofia Yu's practising pole dancer looks almost completely relaxed, though how she stays up I can't really work out, nor what that tattoo on her foot says… David Coles' groundsman seems from above to have spread his tools out like a pack of cards.
We're in the developing world a fair bit. I can almost feel the warm breeze in Chloe Minton's portrait of a Tuk Tuk driver. And what is it about ladders? Don Tonge shows us various slightly hair-raising scenes from Thailand, while Iain gives us a hovering electrician (in goggles?) and Sofia Yu some flip-flopped grafitti artists ten storeys above the Sao Paolo traffic.
Animals work, of course. Three of you looked at bees; Gordon Jackson came up trumps again with view of a packed hive. I guess that's the queen wearing a pink hat? How appropriate. Sandra Dalton picked out a couple of dogs from her collection; clearly the blue-eyed collie with its chin on the van windowsill is working hard at guard duty.
The truth is, more and more of us work at home alone. Louise Astbury has another unusual shot - a lamp and a sharpened pencil to hint at the worries of worklessness, the profound frustration of trying to satisfy the job centre bureaucrats. My pick of the week though is from Mr C, an appealing shot of editing (really?) from the bed (top of page). The brave new world of teleworking is finally with us… and it looks like this? With socks like that??
Images below, top to bottom: Glyn Akroyd, David Coles, Don Tonge, Lloyd Spencer, Sandra Dalton.