Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fascinating Article about Portraits

I was reading one my many photography magazines - Studio Photography - a couple nights ago. The pile of backlogged mag's that I haven't been able to keep up with has gotten out of hand since I moved. I'm sure you can relate to stacks of newspapers and magazines that you want to read but sometimes just can't find the time to read. Anyway, I came upon a really interesting article. It's called "The New Face of Advertising: Fed up with Scandals, Threats, Public Drawn to Real People" by Denise Waggoner. It talks about how advertising campaigns have used images of people to convince potential customers of the greatness of their products.

"We all remember the handsome and rugged Marlboro Man, who made the filtered cigarette a symbol of masculinity."
She goes on to describe why images of people are so descriptive.
"According to David B. Givens, Ph.D., director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies, the answer may be written all over their faces. Givens describes the face as every human’s visual trademark, a powerful expression of attitudes, opinions, and moods that defines our identity and enables us to communicate—and connect—without words."
Without any verbal communication, we are able to read the mood of others. I think we are so accustomed to doing this that we don't even think about it anymore. But think about it. You can always tell when that person in front of you in line at the grocery store is in a hurry without speaking to him. Or you can see when someone is having a great day because they smile or laugh for what seems like no reason. Something great must have happened, right? I think that is so powerful. We are so perceptive that we don't need language to understand others.

© © 200122768-001/Jack Louth/Getty Images
"This portrait’s calm, quiet confidence connects the viewer with an inner desire to possess the same qualities."

The article goes on to say that we are so inundated with advertising in all media, that we find ourselves trying to sift through it all to find truth. And that means that we trust product ads more when we see people using them that look like us. We don't beleive the supermodel perfection.
"... audiences had become skeptical about 'slicked up' advertising centered on artificial heroes. Consumers no longer wanted to see perfection; they wanted to see themselves."
© © 200283064-002/Sir Stafford/Getty Images
"Portraits can recognize diversity, while focusing on individual style rather than groupthink."

It's interesting that they were able to isolate this phenomenon in their study because I find myself doing this all the time. I know that the spectacle of perfection isn't real so whatever product is being advertised using this guise, I consider a lie. It's nice to know that I'm not the only skeptical one out there!

So, in the future, advertising will continue to move in this direction of showing real people to convey truth.
"We’ll also see a growing number of advertising concepts that rely on the appeal of authentic personal testimony. . . the new aesthetic will fuse both conceptual and documentary styles, forming a compelling visual based on abstract realism."
And you know I love that the future of advertising will be this "truth" aesthetic because that 's what I strive to do every day for my clients. Being able to reveal personality, mood and the essence of relationships is what makes photographs so meaningful.

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