Photographer David Newby for The Guardian
Not too long ago I was interviewed by a magazine for a real life story to inspire its readers. You know the kind, it carries write ups about how one defeats all odds to achieve whatever, true love, true fulfilment, you name it. The kind of mag I would personally classify as a little trashy. For this kind of mag, stories have to be emotional and there has to be plenty of anecdotes, unlike broadsheets, in which the writer needs to unpack hidden messages and show some depth.
The way it works is that you tell your story to a professional journalist and s/he pitches it to the mag. There is a little money involved, not a huge amount, but still enough to feel like a proper fee. You give details and the writer organises your thoughts/statements and produces some copy which is then sold to the magazine.
What struck me at the time was the insistence on knowing details which to me were quite irrelevant. What do you do for a living, was the question - the piece was about modelling and diversity. Why, I model. No, what is your real job?
I fully well understand what they meant. They wanted to know whether I had another job - or someone - that paid my bills. Because modelling cannot be a real job.
I am not very happy about the label 'real'. I agree that modelling, like many other creative jobs, may not allow you to earn enough money to live on, with some exceptions. I started off as a dancer and believe me, I soon realised there's plenty of dancers, actors and musicians that have day jobs as waiters and bar staff till they finally manage to make a living out of their artistic vocation. But it's that label real that bugs me. It is used as a synonym for ordinary but real does not mean ordinary. It is such a loaded word, it presupposes an interesting classification: some jobs are real, some are not. Why so?
Surely modelling is work. So is acting, making music, painting. No. These are not, cannot be real jobs. They only become real if they allow you to earn enough money to pay off your rent. So real is synonymous with money making.
But then why, oh why, do we have university degrees in art, music, dance, photography etc etc if they do not lead to real jobs? Are we expecting young people to starve? Are we deluding them into making them believe that their creativity can support them?
You tell me.
(All photos modelled by Alex B)