On Reflection: Week 4, Module Four

Slater_Archivist_Life-is-Sweets 2

Nigel Slater & Archivist Alexandra Hutchinson examine original Rowntree’s artwork

(Life is Sweets, BBC Four, 2012)

A week of decisions as the deadline for the module four assignments creeps closer …

I continue to be aware of the tension between commercial work and project work: trying to reconcile the differences and appreciate the similarities.

Photography as a tool for research in the fields of visual anthropology and social science is of increasing interest to me.

As much as I love food imaging my research has led me to question the function of commercial food photography, recently describing it as the art of persuasion. What does it offer beyond an open invitation to exchange money for food or drink?

From a visual anthropological point of view, contemporary food photography can be viewed as an invaluable source of information, recording the way we eat and our relationship with food for future generations.

5 November 2012, BBC Four and Nigel Slater guides us through the story of his life as recollected in sweets: toffees that inspired him to write a memoir, marshmallows and travel sweets which remind him of his mother and father respectively.

During the documentary, Slater outlines the growth of confectioners Rowntree and in doing so meets company archivist and historian Alexandra Hutchinson.

Together, they examine original artwork from the Rowntree archives.

Proof that commercial imaging plays a valuable role in recording our social history.

As is often the case, more questions than answers …

Who uses images? What are they used for? What is the life cycle of food images? Is there a different life cycle for images from a commercial perspective? And from a domestic perspective?

How do compare contemporary food images with early food images? How has food imaging evolved? How does food imaging fit into an historical context? And other contexts?

Rephotography is typically used as a tool to measure how geographical or architectural features change over a period of time with images being taken from an exact location, which is repeatable and reproducible, at pre-determined increments of time.

Food photography is different, the subjects being extremely ephemeral in nature and with no fixed coordinates to return to. By maintaining a record of how packaging evolves over time, food manufacturers are capturing important data in the same way that social scientists, geographers, geologists and architects are capturing data regarding glacial movements and the ebb and flow of urban developments.

There’s a lot to research in this area …


Reference and Image:

BBC Four/Nigel Slater: Life is Sweets (2012) YouTube Video, added by Elle [Online]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5Y5YIXJgs8 (accessed 09 November 2017)

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