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From playing dress-up to reconstructing family history, photography is the pre-eminent medium for sharing, storytelling and self-expression. And advertisers are tapping into this creative addiction.
The Charisma of “Everyday”
In design, photography and illustration, the revival of craft, handmade, the rough edges of collage all signal a desire for the look of something material, physical, analog. It reinserts the idea of the human hand in what is a cold, digital process and it's why certain kinds of retro-media looks have been popular in campaigns such as the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet which was reintroduced to the market after a nine-year absence with an ad that looks like it was a Super-8 home-movie from the 70s. Or singer Lana Del Rey (whose name is a nostalgic mash-up of Lana Turner and the Ford Del Rey) who used found footage in a popular viral promo evoking a collaged world of home movies and celebrity footage to provide a context for herself that is timeless. There’s both glamour and “girl-next-door” appeal to anonymous imagery, to imagery that is mythologised as “everyday”.
And it’s why fan photography is so popular with cosmetics and fashion brands because it has an everyday appeal. The Wish You Were at Topshop campaign ran over 11 days in cities such as London, New York and Dublin. It offered customers free styling and make-up, they were then photographed with an iPad2 using filters from the Instagram app. Customers could take home a copy of the photo, and the image was uploaded on Facebook and the Topshop gallery page. The campaign ticked off a number of essential reasons why using photography in social marketing is currently a winning formula:
- Engagement: an extra 5.3 million views was generated on Facebook, according to the Fresh Networks agency who created it, with the campaign driving a year’s worth of activity on Topshop’s Facebook account in only four days.
- Content: it created a huge amount of content for Topshop which was available for social sharing.
- Creativity: it utilised the idea of spontaneous fast creativity, a central premise for many photo-generating campaigns which tap into desire for self-expression and enable it to happen fast without difficulty.
- Connection: customers got to play dress-up and share with friends in a way almost as intimate as they used to when they were kids. In this way the campaign tapped into the deep-rooted emotionally powerful childhood experiences of image-making.
Fashion brands love the fast, playful engagement of fans which photo-sharing campaigns offer. Marc Jacobs MarcFam campaign encouraged friends and family to tag their photos MarcFam at Twitter and Foursquare, which were then added to the Marc Jacobs gallery. Most “liked” photos received prizes of Marc Jacobs products. Similarly, Moschino’s Pic Me Facebook app encouraged fans to upload their images using one of their brand’s Polaroid-style frames, which then appeared as part of the Moschino community.
The mythology of the everyday and the nostalgia filters gives imagery an aura. It’s at the heart of the appeal of Sony Music’s Instagram – crowdsourced video for The Vaccines, and Ford’s Instagram “Fiestagram” campaign. In a fast-changing world the personal pictures we take, upload and share our identity, our place in the world. It’s a way to connect with ourselves, our lives and others. Photography is now our most popular form of storytelling.
Memory and storytelling
One of the most telling signs of this shift towards photography as connection, as the vehicle for storytelling is Shoebox. It is essentially a way of recreating in pictures your family history. At one level its selling point is that the app enables you to scan in old analog photos of family and share them with family and friends on what it calls a “Shoebox” - an analog term with powerful resonance for an online virtual digital space. But what’s really interesting is the simple fact that in our age of digital image abundance we are losing our own childhood photos faster than the analog photos of parents or grandparents.
“I think in general the internet is lacking a past tense and so you have social media networks that are about what’s happening now,” says Rudy Adler, one of the co-founders. Adler has worked with Apple, GOOD, Focus Features, Levi's, and more pertinently, to the Border Film Project, a collaborative art project telling the story of migrants and Minutemen along the U.S. Mexico border. There are few places to reflect on your past and history online.
Adler’s site connects with the deep visual trend for connection, reflection, storytelling. It was no surprise that the photo website Dear Photograph, in which the contributor finds an old photo and takes a photo of it framed by the exact place the original was taken. The emotional story is the distance in time between the two photos. The story of photography is increasingly the story of connection and sharing the stories itself.
Read more articles from our Content Marketing issue - here
Getty Images Archive is currently sourcing imagery for its Fototrove collection. We are looking for old slides and treasures from the attic. Evocative retro snaps full of nostalgia, fun, warmth, the unexpected, the alluring, the bold and fascinating. In short, all human life.
If you are interested in submitting images to Getty Images Fototrove collection, further details are available here.