Photography in Advertising and Its Effects on Society

3789 Words Apr 24th, 2005 16 Pages
Written by Valerio Loi (2005)

Memory has been and always will be associated with images. As early as 1896, leading psychologists were arguing that memory was nothing more than a continuous exchange of images. (Bergson) Later models of memory describe it as more of an image text; a combination of space and time, and image and word. (Yates) Although image certainly is not the only component of memory, it is undoubtedly an integral and essential part of memory's composition. Photography was first utilized over 100 years ago in an attempt to preserve life as it existed before the industrial revolution. Over time photography has gradually corrupted memory in a variety of ways, despite its original intention to preserve it. From there,
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The most criticized type of anthropological photograph is the image that separates subjects from their environments. The supposed goal of the separation is to highlight the subject's ethnicity and culture. If the goal, however is to highlight culture, it seems that displaying the subject in his or her own culture would be more effective. (Miller 135)
Irving Penn's Two New Guinea Men Holding Hands is a common example of the subject being removed from the environment. (see fig. 1) The photograph taken in Penn's studio is in a style popular among ethnographers; it has been used for years by E.S. Curtis and has recently been refined by Richard Avedon. The background and the studio settings have been criticized widely as "removing subjects from the daily flow of their lives… and cross breeding fashion and anthropology." (Miller 135) The effect of this photograph on memory is to imprint a false image not only of two people but also of an entire culture. Penn's image gives his viewer no idea of how these two men exist in reality. Because of the studio setting, the viewer cannot even safely assume that this is how the two men really dress or interact with each other.
The most common association made between history and photography is not anthropology; it is the documentation of the Holocaust. Holocaust photography has been and always will be burdened by its inherent requirement to fulfill dual roles in society: the role of
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