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Spotlight on cleaning11th of March 2013
Two initiatives related to cleaning took place in France recently. A photo exhibition of cleaning workers, and a meeting between cleaning students and company bosses. Christian Bouzols reports.
Workers not usually seen and who operate in the shadows were put under the spotlight by the Marseilles photographer Philippe du Crest. Cleaners posed for him in full uniform at their workplace. While their clothes reflected the reality of their working lives, they also purported to highlight things that went far beyond that reality by bringing to life real people. These portraits vividly depicted men and women that one often tends to pass by without paying them any attention.
This exercise in photojournalism in the world of cleaning was the theme of an exhibition entitled ‘Agents de Lumière’ in a Paris art gallery. The photographer Philippe du Crest had produced the series of portraits in the city of Marseilles. His focus was to portray life in the industrial world, particularly among wage earners who are hardly ever seen. It was therefore quite natural for him to start with the cleaning sector and at the same time to honour his grandmother who had cleaned other peoples’ homes.
In so doing the photographer’s aim was not so much to depict the enterprises involved as to produce a contemporary and artistic image of those people who make up the world of labour. All the ‘models’ posing were pictured in medium close shots. Two flash lights respectively pointed at their faces and their hands, that is, at the parts of their beings that actually do the work. The staging, the clothes, the lighting and the colour arrangement all worked towards revealing the innate beauty of these men and women. This original exhibition had from the start enjoyed the full support of the French cleaning federation.
The second initiative was to organise a meeting of young people studying for cleaning related degrees with company bosses from the cleaning sector. This meeting took place at the beginning of the year in Paris during the Rencontres de la Propreté, which are regular gatherings between managers and people involved in education and vocational training, such as students and teachers.
Integrating young people
The cleaning sector in France considers platforms of this kind, which bring together industry and educational institutions, to be most important because they help towards the integration of young people into professional life, particularly as the sector is keen to attract young people.
It was in this context the French cleaning federation organised the event whereby students could individually meet cleaning company executives for short interviews that might lead to them being hired for on-the- job training counting towards their diplomas. Thus 60 young people studying for various technical diplomas had the opportunity to meet 15 managers.
With their CVs, note pads, pencils and plenty of motivation, those 60 young ambassadors moved from one table to the next to talk to company chiefs prepared to hire trainees. Each had a timed period of just 10 minutes to explain their hopes and intentions to each boss. Given such strict timing, they had to get straight to the point and be as clear as they could in order to gain the interest of future employers.