Page last updated at 00:35 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

In pictures: pleasures and sorrows of work

Alain de Botton.  Photo Richard Baker

"Every day, most of us go to work - and yet this work is literally invisible, partly as it is not represented in art. Work is seen as an economic phenomenon, rather than as a broader human phenomenon."

Logistics. Photo Richard Baker

"We know little about how the ever growing range of items available for purchase is stored or distributed, by whom. I spent two years following a variety of individuals and corporations as they went about their work."

Cargo ship spotting.  Photo Richard Baker

"Take all the vast cargo ships that sail into ports all over the world, unnoticed by almost everyone, except for the ship spotters who observe them in ways that are not simply financial and numerical, but instead see them as works of art."

Electricity.  Photo Richard Baker

"Our culture openly invites us to be aware of birds and historic churches, yet places no comparable emphasis on electricity or pylons, despite the fact that that they often rival, for ingenuity and beauty, the more established objects of our curiosity."

Entrepreneur.  Photo Richard Baker

"The idea of launching a successful new business is at the heart of modern fantasies. The start-up company may be as central to our contemporary ideals as the ritual of praying for the souls of the dead was to the values of our mediaeval ancestors."

Tuna fishing.  Photo Richard Baker

"Every year, 6,000 tonnes of fresh tuna fish are imported into the United Kingdom, at a cost of some 40m. It is shipped half way around the world from the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, all within a 48 hours to prevent the fish from going off."

Biscuit manufacture.  Photo Richard Baker

"Even simple biscuits can tell complicated stories. The British spend 1.8 billion a year on biscuits. The largest manufacturer is called United Biscuits, which launched The Moment biscuits following a two year long, 3m development programme."

Career councelling.  Photo Richard Baker

"Less visible work is carried out by career counsellors, who are the product of a democratic, optimistic world that insists that everyone might be a happy worker, yet does very little to create comfortable conditions for those who are not."

Accountancy.  Photo Richard Baker

"Accountancy may be synonymous with bureaucratic tedium, but from close up, this particular conglomeration of numerical talents presents a case-study of the discrete charms of offices, with their intriguing blend of camaraderie, intelligence and futility."

Rocket scientist.  Photo Richard Baker

"For more than 20 years, the European Space Programme ESA has been launching satellites from a rocket base in the jungles of French Guiana on the South American coast, bringing sophisticated technology to an impoverished country that belongs to France."

Aviation.  Photo Richard Baker

"The Paris Airshow is a major biennial event in the aerospace calendar, where manufacturers gather before the world's airlines and air forces and try to interest them in wheels, missiles and cabin curtains." Text: Alain de Botton. Photos: Richard Baker.

Print Sponsor

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific