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April Cooper | Studio Journal

Paul Reas | I Can Help (1988)

In 1988 Paul Reas produced the series 'I Can Help', which explored the emerging consumer culture boom that western nations were in the process of adapting too. Consumer culture began to shape itself in all areas of life in the 1980s (families, supermarkets, shopping malls etc).  Paul Reas focusing particularly on the middle class - portraying it with a sense of empathy for their modern lifestyles. The work was exhibited in London, The Photographers Gallery, Cornerstone and Amsterdam, Olympus Gallery.
I really love the image Retail Park - the young boys face really does say it all. Whilst the adults are standing in order, waiting to acquire their consumption the lady to the left almost looks cowering - while the young boy stands completely in objection, confused/unbelieving in what he see’s. I’ve mentioned the wisdom of children in our west societies before, it is as though their youth keeps them much closer to the nature of the world - personalities that are not subjectively judging themselves against the rest of society yet. It’s visible - the elders are distracted, the lady is subjectively judging the situation against the minds precepts, and the young boy is the only person presently accepting - hence the great expression.
The image Baby & Meat I think really helps expose the distraction of western culture, especially in the beginning when people were extremely susceptible to it. Its as though the baby has just been piled in the trolly along with every other consumption item, being dragged along by a gripping ring finger. The child in the background helps make this image great, because he looks lost. In Reas work particularly here its helpful to see how children perform in the culture compared to adults, who are stricken by the idea of what they need rather than what they’ve got.
I really love the style of Reas work, in this series he really captures the moments and minds of consumers in these shopping centers. He uses really great angles too - I’m going to keep this in mind for capturing my image of consumers, otherwise I could see it looking just like more pixels - I may try using a film camera, to capture the real light and atmosphere in these buildings.

Banksy | Cola Bottle

This image written from Banksy I think is amazing at getting the real message of advertisement across. Although it is not photography - it is extremely relevant to my project. It’s inspired me to do exactly what it says, and not ask for permissions, and too put art in the eyes of the world as and where I please. I may need a ladder, and a few friends.. but its very true - they don’t ask for my permission and in effect circled the lives of many, so I have no plans to ask for theirs.

Mark Curran | The Breathing Factory

This exhibition from Mark Curran began with a 9 month battle to gain access to the Hewlett-Packard Technology camp. The project started April 2003 and ran for 20 months. It featured workers in uniforms leaving everything to blur into the background, except the diversity of their employment. Curran’s work on this project is said to explore themes of culture from the individual - as its the only thing that shines through the standardization of the camp (coats, uniform creating a neutrality comparing to human kind).
The image of Mick, the Line Operator really helped me to understand the greatness of this project by Curran. We rarely see what happens beyond the shell of these corporate testing buildings, and too see how a blending individual from the outside world contrasts within the plainness of this camp. He all of a sudden may seem full of character because he’s not dressed in white. The portrait of Ebelonga highlights how much of our personality/emotion the human face carries. We are able to recognize her human characteristics but that of her body blends away with a corporate wash.

The image of the Worker from the Leixlip, Ireland is my favorite from this selection of images. The noise in the image creates a tension between the viewer and subject - he looks as though hes about to begin a technological surgical operation, staring direct in to the viewers eyes. He is dressed in such clinical attire, which would be likely to help the thought processes of their employees in to the corporate mind sets. I.e. Hewlett-Packard are a worldly renown company so their staff must perform like machines, hence the removing of color and stimulation.

Anderas Gursky

Andreas Gursky is a German visual artist known for his large format architecture and landscape photographs. Gursky’s work looks at large social groups and their immediate impact on their surroundings. The traces of human kind can be seen in a landscape, noting that their decisions and movements have been directed by the environment itself. His work is said to reduce people from a crowd into pixels, patterns and shapes.
Particularly I have gathered images focusing on the vast amounts of people to cater for in western society. The image Chicago Board of Trade II (1999) is very directly the roots of western lifestyle, the bombardment of people and screens - huddled around in a corporate mess of celebration/devastation depending on the trader. Comparing this image with the organized workers in pink suits, it depicts a very different lifestyle depending on which side of the trading scheme you belong too. Whether you are able to make your own decisions in your job, or to be as regimented as a machine. Taking it one step further to the image of what looks to be Third World country workers in orange suits - much less wealth and organization fills the warehouse.
For my MJP I will be shooting with a title of ‘Masses’ and Gursky’s work is inspiring for this. I will continue my research until I find a suitable area for to photograph the masses in a shopping environment - to try and highlight the influence this setting has on a consumer/person. Consumerist environments have thousands and thousands of marketing ideas in place, so do we even know who we are in these environments amongst the bypassing of our conscious minds?

Christopher Williams | The Production Line of Happiness

The title of this exhibition refers broadly to the function of photography in consumer culture. The imagery is all depicting the different processes that have and are occurring, leading us constantly to our final piece of perfected media. The appliances/machinery that makes all this possible - particularly the camera.

I really love this image of the Nikon model, it slices it in half like its nothing but this really is the piece of equipment that our western society has materialized on. Without the camera the oppression we have currently probably would exist, as there would be nothing to oppress other than hand drawings - which are much more impression/expression than objects of desire.

The Kodak Three Point Reflection Guide image is really effective too. The model subject has clearly been asked to create the famous ‘Kodak’ smile. Along with some bright yellow fabrics its half way to an eye grabbing advert - because she looks happy. Selling happiness has been the corporates guide to consumers mainly from day one. The reflection guide on the left is telling the viewer why its so attractive to the eye. We have natural receptors in our eyes/brains that are drawn to contrasting colors - through visual stimulation. By getting this right, advertisers undoubtedly grab your attention, but obviously will never advertise how.

Other methods for the process of perfection are featured in Williams work too, like adjustment of the shutter speed, light-o-meter, and the film camera. Corporations would have a hard time making their profits if it wasn’t for the amount of control we have using these pieces of equipment. I also really love the title of the work, its irony is really truthful.

Brian Ulrich as an artist focuses his work around "consumer dominated culture". 

The project Copia includes work on various themes; everyday activities of shopping, economic, cultural, social and political implications of commercialism. Leading on to self destruction, over consumption and the prime heavy targets of marketing and advertisement. The project started in 2001 shortly after the Sept 11th tragedy where the U.S government encouraged citizens to go shopping at malls to boost the economy, "equating consumerism with patriotism"

The images I have gathered are from the chapter ‘Retail’, which varies around the middle class shopping experience "big box malls and department stores". The artist says on his website about the history of this subject, how far back and complex it is to us that are accustom to it.  Which is true, the shopping world is so far ahead and developed that we are unaware we even enter it. Instead we walk in and fulfil our duties as a consumer, i.e. the child slumped over in the chair in the last photograph - I remember this feeling, as I am sure many others do. Waiting for your mum or dad to finish shopping whilst being bored stiff, you will rarely find children that enjoy a shopping experience. But could that be early wisdom?


The first image of a woman consuming a glass of wine, explains to me the problem of alcohol consumption particularly of these nations. It is one of the only forms of drug that are given willingly by authority (obviously with implemented taxing), but yet causes so many long term difficulties for its user - but its a consumer standstill, apart of its history meaning it will never be taken away. 

I particularly like the forth image also. It’s like the new edition to the family is the huge projector, so important and proud that it deserves to take centre stage in a family portrait. 


After learning of this artists work the idea of ‘commercialism’ has become important to my project, all these image highlight the commercialised life lead in western dominating countries - a constant chase for the desired perfected product and enviroment. We see this everywhere music business, television programs, actors, singers, shops etc. Its all been tailored according to its commercial output for you, me, and every individual that lives amongst these social norms. I will look in to creating an image for my final theming ‘commercialism’.

Images, ref: http://notifbutwhen.com/

TEST: Breakdown of Consumerism (Stage1)
Note: final image will be in black and white. 

img1: Using a landscape frame gave me the flexibility to vary angles and the negative space between subjects. However it does make the frame to wide leaving the hand exposed on the apparatus, which although in concept this could work when the image is complete, my vision was too have the apparatus seeming from nowhere. I have done a quick photoshop experiment on this image (B&W, process, corrections). Although I will not be using this image I wanted to try a few things before heading into the selected portrait.

img2: I really like this image, if I were to put it next to the finished image it could symbolise the ‘realising moment’ were you understand how advert saturation and consumerism can effect a person subconsciously into conformity etc. The way her heads turned looking up at the shadow of the apparatus to me seems like the girl has realised where her ideas are coming from. I may incorporate this image into the final selection some how, but it will not be used as the main image. 

img3: This shot captured the right shaping/positioning I had in mind for the image, but something is missing. There are too many shadows around the females face and the image would have need to been shot in a studio for flat lighting on all the subjects. I will not be using this image. 

img4: In this image I used a LED flashlight to counteract the need for flat lighting and less shadows. I think it worked really well as it looks as though the lightbulb is a blinding distraction flooding the subjects face - which works perfectly with the concept of the image. The hand is not visible on the black apparatus, which means I can create the flood of adverts as I wanted in the next step. This image is my favourite of this shoot, and will be the one I create the final image from. 

Breakdown of Consumerism: Concept

Black Apparatus: This is to represent the mechanism used to saturate our brains. An ugly matter of mass, built to interrupt, distract and manipulate us to think we need a company/brand/option in our lives. Although not everything is bad, but I thought the apparatus would work as a good representation. 

Stream of Adverts: Beginning in the top right side of the image through the apparatus, into the girls brain (collaged ads). This is the flow of information that the individuals brain intakes just living within the social norms of western society. 

Blonde Hair: The most famous ‘faked’ look in western ideology. 

Brown Plait: I left the models natural hair in the image to highlight to the viewer that the blonde hair is unnatural, and a expression of the westernised superficiality. 

Lightbulb: The idea that the ideology of consumerism brings to the individual. Symbolising the brains natural output reaction to the saturation. 

Light: The light exemplifies the overwhelming distraction the output reaction amounts too. I.e. consumer lifestyle.

Facing/Shadows: I left a few shadows visible while photographing for the idea, to show she’s being creeped up on while facing the opposite direction - unaware. 

Noel Douglas

Noel Douglas is a cultural activist artist that believes in the change of the future. He was one of my educators at the University of Bedfordshire, and gave a lecture on Anti Capitalism in my second year. As an artist he really opened my eyes to the current state of power in the western economies. We learnt about the various marches that he has been apart of over time, the different distractions, blocks and force that were put in place by authoritative powers to stop the peaceful protests raising awareness. 

Details of the lecture and events: http://aprilkaycooper.tumblr.com/post/36747992718/anti-capitalism 


I particularly like the audacity of his work, again like the other artists I have been looking at he is not shying away from the truth. His work is completely relevant to today and he’s work is a strong stand for a better future. I really am drawn to the idea of appropriating recognisable visuals from society to arrange something that exploits the truth behind the three main ideas in western systems; Capitalism, Consumerism and the Masses. 


In particular my favourite work here is the puppet strings seen attached to Gordon Brown. As I understand that these people with their face in the power seat are nothing but puppets, being told new information constantly with an influence and then being influenced by those in close working relationships on their decisions, in some cases inevitably not being aloud to make their own choices. Similar to every other life in the public eye. I would like to look at using puppet strings in some of my photography work, particularly in the image mentioned for the theme ‘Politics’ - see MJP Pro-forma.