Sunday, 21 August 2011

Know your place, Realise your worth: Playing the Internship Game

Internships aren't about being paid, they're about ascertaining the point at which you are adding value.

I'm a student, and in my spare time and university holidays I do paid work, and I do unpaid work. In my paid work, I work as a freelance copywriter, completing projects for national clients which involve thorough research and writing copy on commission. I obtained this work because I was approached by a written communications firm. They believed I was an asset to their team, so they pay me to keep me writing for them.

My unpaid work is entirely different, and I do so much of it because it is of benefit to me. Anyone who has trawled through a weekend of writing internship covering letters will tell you that the reason they are doing it is because it's the only way to get into the industry, and to learn about that industry- ie. they're doing it for themselves. Companies won't approach you if they don't need you- in fact, the opposite is true- you approach them because you need them.

How anyone could expect a company to pay for an intern they don't need is beyond me. You may find yourself doing an array of both menial and meaningful tasks. Meaningful to you, that is. Rest assured, there will be an existing, paid employee inside the company who could do the task more effectively and efficiently. But if you want to have a bash for free, then go for it. It's how you learn. But don't expect to be paid. They'll pay you when you contribute what others can't.

The reason that unpaid internships are so oft-criticised is because they favour those who can easily afford to work for free. They favour the middle class young people whose parents can pay their rent and whose relatives are in high places. This is true. It is also a battle not worth fighting, as parents will always do their best to boost their child's chances, legal obstruction or no legal obstruction. What we can do is see this apparent barrier as a benefit to the privileged and not a blockade to the masses. If you really want it, then you'll find the money. At the moment, I'm living in the room of a friend who has a student flat in the area, although if I didn't have her generosity, I would have the income from my paid work to supplement my living costs. Is it easy when things aren't handed to you on a plate? No. Will you ever usurp the reigning classes from the pungent draw of nepotism? No. Is it impossible to better your prospects when your parents aren't bailing you out? No.

All of the interns I have come across this summer are in a position they fought for, and most work weekends and evenings to get by. It's that age old mantra: where's there's a will, there's a way.

The intrinsic blessing of the unpaid internship is that it puts you in an ideal position to add value, to show your worth, to make yourself essential. If the work that you do is of value you will become indispensable, and that's when you'll deserve to be paid, which is why I live by the saying "Know your place, but realise your worth". Internships wouldn't exist if they weren't of benefit to the person doing them. If you're looking for someone to blame, then blame the person trying to better their chances of finding work. Chances are they'll tell you where to go.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Review: 'Glamour of the Gods' at the National Portrait Gallery

Marilyn Monroe

Clark Gable and Joan Crawford

An usually sunny evening last week saw me visit the National Portrait Gallery to see their current ‘Glamour of the Gods’ exhibition. On Thursday and Friday evenings, the gallery is open until 9pm as part of their ‘Late Shift’ concept. After arriving early, we had the chance to look round the BP portrait prize show, which contained work by some seriously talented artists and portraits which were slightly less engrossing. Nevertheless, a great start to a perusal of the main event, for me at least.

‘Glamour of the Gods’ is a surprisingly small exhibition, but one that does its job perfectly. The portraits present a beautiful and lingering impression of some of Hollywood’s most illuminating stars from the 1920s to the 1960s. The women and men in the predominantly black and white showcase have become icons not just of the screen but in the worlds of fashion, beauty and art.

We are the privileged viewers of a portrait of Mary Pickford which was later published in US Vogue in 1920. Clark Gable and Joan Crawford’s chemistry dazzles, bouncing around the eggshell blue walls of the exhibition room. Vivien Leigh oozes the poise which is decidedly un-Blanche. It’s all here, and both lovers of cinema and filmic amateurs will appreciate what the pictures represent.

The blurbs that sit beside the images offer a more rounded, telling story. They convey the youth of the actors and actresses and the pressures that they faced in the roles that defined them.

What shone through to me though was the pointed synthesis between sex and vulnerability- the fear and the longing in the eyes of the female actresses. My only criticism of this exhibition is in its title. This isn’t about glamour, but about sex. And no portrait demonstrates that better than Ernest Bachrach’s image of Marilyn Monroe. Captured whilst filming Clash by Night in 1952, Monroe couldn’t appear less glamourous or more coquettish.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Haider Ackermann

This blog is a topical concoction of sorts. Sporadically written during university holidays when I'm working for free and more regularly kept up when I'm in my studying routine, I can only say that this post is one of those "now that I've thought it, and thought about it, I have to say it right now" type of pieces. So here goes...

Haider Ackermann. AW11. Wow... great shapes, fluid drapery, luxe fabrics and daring, daring cut-outs all meant that this collection made one of the big, if not the biggest, impacts of the season. I think the pictures probably say it all, but I just wanted to post this to remind myself and others that it's not only the household-name designers that get it spectacularly right. Independent Belgian brands have a lot to say as well, and I for one will be listening forthwith.