The Laborer’s Lost Love

by Beauchamp Art

As much as I enjoy supporting fellow artists and students, pricing my photography and filming services is pointless, irregardless of the content and the number of hours of work, no body is comfortable paying a vaguely realistic wage. A photo-shoot becomes photos and filming, becomes producing and editing a film, with a soundtrack, and I am lucky to walk away with £20, which does not even covering the actual time of getting to the location, the time spent taking the images, let alone the post-production. Such payment is really just a token gesture, but as I am no longer a student and time is the most valuable but easily overlooked resource, I may have to consider to whom my services are offered, if I cannot be appropriately compensated for my time. I do not object if the project is collaborative and there equal contributions towards a unified outcome, but when performing a function for another, it does not seem totally unreasonable to expect recompense, even if not financially, but at least fair recourse.

This worth of the individual’s labour has been at the forefront of considerations for some time now, not only as a graduate from an indebting course searching for work, or the clamp down on civil and workers’ rights and liberties by the current government, but also the historical precedents for labour to be deliberately undervalued be exploitative employers, as has been addressed in some of the literature that I have encountered. Namely, in George Orwell’s ‘Road to Wigan Pier’; with the examination of the living and working conditions of coal miners around the 1920s. Alongside Robert Tressell’s ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’; providing a socialist deconstruction of the plight of the workers through the narrative of a group of decorators at the start of the 20th century. And even to a similar extent in Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451′ with the mass destruction of books as the ruination of a life’s work as part of a system of control and deliberate disempowerment of the masses.


Artists, like other workers, should not be compelled to be labouring toy-makers to the bourgeoisie who produce nothing, but only accumulate wealth for themselves. Art be for everyone without resorting to universalism and homogeneity or as part of a mass production complex that only seeks to befit a select elite, rather than all involved in the process; otherwise art can only contribute to wider forms of social labour exploitation through its normalisation, and providing another platform for the powerful to accumulate a greater excess of the amenities and luxuries of life that this contemporary world is capable of sustaining, whilst others go wanting; starved of the wealth of the society which they produce and maintain. The public are permitted bread and circuses alongside their minimal shelter and not a pittance more, in total disproportion to the level of wealth they produce for others above them; they are treated as parasites whilst they suffer the vampiric malevolence of suckling overlords, draining all but the last drop of life for their gluttonous expansion.

So, as artists in the kinship of a shared labour, we should not undervalue the efforts of others to reap a bountiful selfish harvest, for this only seeks to reinforce existing dogmatic hierarchies that leave all those that produce fighting amongst the wheat and chaff like half-feral field mice. Only through the unity of mutual understanding and cooperation can our condition be alleviated; do not make our siblings beg for a pittance whilst the fat of the land is skimmed by a ravenous plutocratic oligarchy.

Work together, stand together, rise together, and let none be cast asunder through misplaced animosity, whilst those that truly see us as cogs smugly sit in the thrones of our toil; we all shall reap what we have sewn.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Heaney, Seamus (1966) Digging. Death of a Naturalist. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.