The Image Factory: Consumer Culture, Photography and the Visual Content Industry

The Image Factory: Consumer Culture, Photography and the Visual Content Industry

The Image Factory: Consumer Culture, Photography and the Visual Content Industry

The Image Factory: Consumer Culture, Photography and the Visual Content Industry

Synopsis

Quietly but implacably, powerful transnational corporations are gaining power over our visual world. A 'global, visual content industry' increasingly controls images supplied to advertisers, marketers and designers, yet so far the process has, paradoxically, evaded the public eye.This book is the first to expose the interior workings of the visual content industry, which produces approximately 70% of the images that define consumer cultures. The corporate acquisition of major photographic and film archives, as well as the digital rights to much of the worlds fine art, is having a profound effect on what we see. From stock photography to new technologies, this book powerfully engages with the historical and cultural issues relating to visual culture and new media. How has stock photography, the system of renting out ready-made images, transformed the role of marketing and advertising? What impact are digital technologies having on the practices of industry professionals? How have software programs such as Photoshop enabled professionals to play God with photographs and how does this influence our belief in the integrity of images?Combining original research on stock photography with a new theoretical take on the circulation of images in contemporary culture, The Image Factory provides a comprehensive and in-depth exploration of industrialized commercial photography, its uses and abuses.

Excerpt

This book is about the making of ordinary, mass-produced, photographic images. The kinds of image that we encounter many times each day as we pass by advertising billboards, turn the pages of newspapers, flick through magazines, glance at publicity brochures, and - increasingly for many of us - traverse windows and websites on our computer screens. Yet although these images are ubiquitous, they are also so unexceptional that our encounters with them seem to have no duration, and are not marked off as noteworthy events or experiences. They are, in fact, the sort of everyday images that we hardly give a thought to, that escape our attention, that we barely recall and that we struggle to place. Neither compelling nor arresting nor intriguing in any way, they can seem almost deliberately inconspicuous, as though designed not to attract attention or detain the eye. Part of the background, unremarkable and effectively ‘invisible’, they are routinely overlooked by most of their viewers, most of the time. They are the wallpaper of consumer culture.

Of course, calling such images ‘ordinary’ begs quite a few questions. What does being ordinary entail? What distinguishes ordinary, overlooked images from those which stand out, catch our eye, grab our attention, and become the focus not only of our personal interest but even of public discussion? Is ‘ordinariness’ a quality of the content of certain photographs, of their placement within particular media contexts and viewing situations (making them potentially extraordinary in other circumstances), of our viewing habits and attitudes toward them, or of all these things together? And since, by our own admission, these images are ordinary, why bother writing a book about them? Surely the fact that they escape our notice indicates their insignificance within the greater scheme of things: pictures so banal and uninteresting that they have no value for us in the present, let alone any lasting importance for our culture and society.

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