Monday 3 August 2015

Picture Post No. 3 The Holiday Photo: moments caught in amber...

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t that what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Ben Hendriks and Tessa den Uyl

On the beach, Majorca, 1961
These are our mothers, before they became our mothers.

The strange thing is, that these two holidaymakers - our mothers  - seem to stay in the background of the Pepsi bottles they hold up and yet it is the decade that Pepsi launches its publicity: ‘Come alive, you’re in the Pepsi generation!’ Our mothers seem to have also provided, unconsciously, the perfect advertisement.

But we, their children, remember, when we saw this picture at a younger age how we were stuck by their joy rather then the Pepsi bottles. Maybe it was because it was taken before the stock value of  Pepsi would rise relentlessly, or maybe it was because we saw two familiar figures outside of their ordinary circumstances and we were intrigued at discovering them in a way which was somehow unknown, and evoked a sense of freedom to us... but certainly not that freedom Pepsi intended with its slogans. 


Was our reaction due to nostalgia for a decade we had not seen? Was it due to the two bottles being held up that symbolise a friendship? Or merely that it is our mothers captured in the moment? Or was it due to the composition of the photo that, with the two men in the background and the two trees at the outer left compose good diagonals with the smiling girls (behind their sunglasses, that un-identify them) plus the two bottles in the foreground, that makes the picture simply 'work'? Is this picture about our mothers  - or something else?

The past that is repeated and recognisable doesn’t need linguistic understanding nor cultural knowledge. This photo reflects commodity, but the suggested ideology wasn’t consciously present as it would be if we were to take the same picture today. We can understand this one though as a good stand-in for what it doesn’t represent. Might we then say that a photo can be a testimony to the history it has experienced? Then how reliable is our own perception?


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

In a sense, the bottles may be larger than those holding them. As an example, the "Coke indicator" is used to track political stability. Dave Roos laments: "It turns out that our personal choices are strongly influenced by collective tastes and broad economic trends."

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Thomas,

Taking the freedom to ask some adolescents what this picture showed to them, they replied: "joy!" The bottle apparently indicates a sign for friendship and is placed 'behind' the persons; it constitutes a logical object belonging to that situation. The bottle is not even the bottle for it represents the idea of drinking together, which refers to a rather sacred idea of sharing. But when that idea is used to build economic trends, messages become mixed up by taking advantage properly of that element that constitutes something that refers to 'feeling welcome', for someone has had the idea to place the bottle 'in front' of the person. Now probably in most persons, the message of the bottle is however placed 'behind' since its sign refers to a characteristic so strongly belonging to human behaviour, it cannot primarily place it 'in front' for somehow that would mean to admit that an innocent human gesture befits an 'unholy' gesture. Since both aspects are placed in culture, drawing the difference between the symbol of beverage and the significance of a label upon that symbol, and the application of that label for economy, and that economy interfering as a value in a human world, becomes highly difficult.

docmartincohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
docmartincohen said...

(This one without so many typos!)

Mmm... that's interesting... However, both this positive perspective and a more sinister 'product placement' one could apply.

As Karl Marx, once said, (or rather, laboriously explained in one of his long rambling philosophical treatises) the commodity is a mysterious entity full of theological caprices, a particular object satisfying a particular need, but it is at the same time also the promise of “something more,” of an unfathomable enjoyment whose true location is fantasy. (I borrow the words of the eccentric contemporary philosopher, Slavoj Žižek.)

Of course, Marx saw alll capitalism is a fraud on the public - and food and drink industry is if anything one of the worst offenders. It manipulates our desires in order to rob us of our pennies - and it is heartless enough not to care if in the process it ruins our health too.

But in another way Coca Cola does seem to fulfil one of the Marxist predictions: the rapacious demands of the market have indeed torn down geographical and cultural distinctions and barriers. The reactionary redneck white builder will quite happily grab a Chinese takeaway, a Turkish Kebab or even a French baguette on the way home from the football. For that, I suppose, we should be grateful!

Perig Gouanvic said...

What I like, and what strikes me the most with this picture, is the movement that it captures. In the same direction as the diagonal you point out, Tessa, goes the movement of the first lady, leaning to chin chin her bottle. I perceive a movement going towards the back, towards the man in the back and the horizon, while the other lady breaks this movement by watching in the direction of us, of the picture taker. This creates a compelling effect, I find. I wasn't struck by the brand of the bottles. I find that pictures often freeze movements (the convention to start still for the shot) and give a sense of being locked in time, but less so with this one.

docmartincohen said...

Mmmm... but to me, the image seems so posed - the sort of thing that marketing makes people try to be, rather than what they aybe are. The Pepsi Coke is so much part of that - 'the dream'!

Tessa den Uyl said...

I agree Perig that this picture can show how 'movement' can play into the frozen image. (Take out the left arm and leg of the right lady and you loose that movement you mention, f.e.) The capture might have been focused towards that subject, no doubt.

I think that the description of the picture posts ( because things...appear to become) points to how the picture and the capture can reflect that thought. So somehow a 'switch' appears between the two.

As perception in anticipation focuses to what the mind is focused upon, before we see, we already know what we will see. When you take this in its double end, as martin mentions: marketing plays upon that perception. This picture has pointed out that issue most for me along a timeline. Nevertheless the picture carries some kind of photographical pleasure that shouldn't be underestimated, and thank you Perig for pointing that out.

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