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Wasted Youth: Jon Barker

The London-based photographer on the importance of a support network when looking for a job and the choice between financial stability and what you are passionate about

A strong family can be a crucial factor behind encouraging a young person to be successful. In part two of Dazed Digital’s ‘Wasted Youth’ series, we look at how a strong support network around someone can keep them stable in a time when destruction and disappointment faces young people, day in and day out. To Jon D Barker, 27, a photographer from London, the future lies in young social enterprises.

But in a challenging market, where ideas struggle to get past just thoughts in young aspiring minds, the battle to be different and innovative is one that is hotly contested. Luckily for Jon, the support network that surrounded him helped him keep his ideas alive. But for those without a brain for business, it seems their only other option is to work in their local supermarket. Are we all meant to live menial lives? Or can our dreams and aspirations still be fulfilled?

Dazed Digital: Where do you think the problems are in the system?
Jon Barker: 
So many jobs have laid out a system where they can ask for work without payment, so as to go towards their ‘experience’, that more companies are doing this. Why pay for work if you can get it for free, as it were. What this effectively does is either remove jobs from the market or make them not viable as a full time career. I think the value of workers, or its perception is considered lower, especially in large companies where those running it only deal with their direct head of divisions – there’s so much separation from the top that they don’t have the same empathy as a smaller business may.

DD: Do you feel like there's a catch 22 for the younger generation and employment? 
Jon Barker: 
I think it’s a bit of a vicious cycle – you either end up in a minimum skills job without much career improvement opportunities, or you have to sacrifice financial stability for an unknown amount of time just to get a foot on the ladder. I don’t think school grades necessarily reflect more than someone’s ability to understand their teachers and memorise information that in lots of cases won’t be used again (such as algebra). A good idea doesn't stop being one just because of alphabetical letters next to a school subject.

DD: How do you feel about our current market for unpaid internships? Do you think it's fair that companies can get away with marketing intern schemes as being ‘a necessary benefit to young people’ and that gives them the allowance to not pay them? 
Jon Barker: 
It’s exploitative really, to get something for nothing. Much like in photography where people like to say ‘it’ll look good on your portfolio, I cannot afford to pay you though’ – why should someone get your time and your work for free?

DD: What's your view on the market for minimum wage (or less) labour? Is it fair?
Jon Barker: 
I think the minimum wage should be raised, I don’t think anyone should make less than that. But I appreciate that we have one here, as many countries don’t.

Read our interview with Lucy Porter, 18, HERE