A small introduction. I am a creative who is working their way up in the industry like many others. In order to do this some of us engage in some voluntary activities: test shoots, short term work placements, etc. It can be beneficial to practice our skills with others.
THE PROBLEM: THEY WON’T PAY
I am part of a Facebook group named STOP WORKING FOR FREE. I want to share with you all something posted by creative Emma Jane Lewis. She shared a screenshot of an email response she received from the Mert and Marcus’ company. After enquiring about assisting/intern positions available she received this response:
Let’s break this down.
WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM?
Let’s say you’re a photographer and you’re looking for experience with great established names. You’d jump at the chance to witness how they put their shoots together, maybe learn a few tricks, speak to them personally - even feel like a valued member of the team. (That’s the dream right?)
Instead, you are expected to be a personal assistant, doing administration work (barely relevant to the experience you really want to get). Yes, administration is relevant to the photography profession but let’s face it: you’re doing their dirty work. You’re doing it for nothing.
If you’re lucky you might get to see Mert and Marcus when they’re in London. Given the fact they work with huge names such as Madonna and Lady Gaga, the probability of working with them both in London is rather small. With a net worth apparently of 12 million; seems a bit ridiculous that you can’t (won’t) pay an assistant. Most of all, according to this source, Mert and Marcus are the second richest fashion photographers in the world.
You are expected to work 45 hours a week for absolutely nothing in London, one of the most expensive cities to live in. These 45 hour weeks are to occur for over 6 months.
Not only is this wildly offensive to anyone who has invested in university fees, moving abroad for study etc, equipment alone, this is only one example of a huge problem in the creative industries: working for free.
Some people are willing to do it, but if you are, then you have to know the law. What Mert and Marcus are doing is questionable in legal terms.
YOUR RIGHTS AS AN INTERN
ACCORDING TO TARGET JOBS, By law, employers have to pay their interns the national minimum wage if:
the intern counts as a ‘worker’ (things that make you a worker include having a contract – written or verbal – and being required to turn up even if you don’t want to)
the intern is promised a work contract in future
THE GREY AREA
The BBC says:
I remind everyone of the terms mentioned:
“working under their personal assistant”
“unpaid internship with the potential”
I point all this out as a creative who is sick of seeing my peers being exploited with empty promises. We are tired of this. We cannot romanticise the exploitation of the creative industries anymore. My message is simple.
MERT AND MARCUS: PAY YOUR FUCKING ASSISTANTS.
I encourage those who agree that we shouldn’t be exploited anymore to make this point to them personally. The worst part is that they are to be honoured at the fashion awards. Link below. We have to demand change. There’s no excuse for this. Either way, we’d like answers.