It's always summer in snapshots
: the commodification of photography as keepsakes

  • Maggie Carey

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    When faced with natural disaster it is imperative for most families to safeguard their personal snapshots. Their loss is mourned and people are often reduced to tears when describing these material objects as irreplaceable treasures. With the press of a button a picture is taken, often spontaneously and just for fun without concern for artistic intent or cultural merit. Value is not calculated in terms of money, aesthetics or classification as fine, folk or naive art; instead family pictures are revered as archives of intrinsically priceless personal memories. Photographs are nostalgic keepsakes. 

    This visual arts Master's research project comprises an exegesis and arts practice based in photography and design. It explores how snapshots present an idealised view of families. It reviews the history of photography, documents and highlights the repetitive advertising that metamorphosed manufactured material objects into irreplaceable memories considered more veracious than personal recollections. Questioning how Kodak educated consumers to photograph only that which is pleasant, this work explores the snapshot as a simulacrum of reality enveloped in the over arching human desire to make enduring that which is ephemeral. It shows a nostalgic keepsake transmuting into evocative perpetual personal representation after death. 

    My arts practice draws on collected bricolage and photographs to highlight how Kodak advertising depended on sentiment not facts, commodifying women's cultural practice of recording the temporal and metronomic rhythm of human life and traditional family structures. Individual images from a bigger picture sequenced into a family album, as an idealised constructed narrative of precious memories. Collages explore the readily identifiable subjects and style of romanticised cultural stereotypes epitomised by a memetic lexicon. This work questions A Kodak Moment, as a symbol of commodified mass conformity and visual conditioning that influences what we see (to photograph), how we view ourselves and what we remember.

    Note: Please note that full artwork collection of this thesis is only available on CD ROM.
    Date of AwardFeb 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBirut Zemits (Supervisor) & Andrea Ash (Supervisor)

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