Sunday, October 2, 2011

Seismic Shift

In the rush to collect all things nostalgic there are some images which sit on the border between uncomfortable and just plain wrong. When taken in the context of social history they say much more about societal values and geographic significance. By this I'm referring to vintage advertising posters and product labels. Anthropologists and social historians would have enough material to fill numerous Phd's but I can't help reflecting on how much advertising is the barometer on how we view our place in the world.

The advertisement for the syrup comes from the USA 1920's. I found much stronger images to use but felt that the exaggerated 'Uncle Tom' caricatures were just too much. In contemporary labelling if we tried to do something which implied servitude or less than equal status there would be howls of revulsion. In the Yakima Chief apples label we see yet another racial cliche...a wizened Jeronimo with obligatory headdress. This version comes from the 1940's to 1950's and I can clearly recall similar advertisements here in Australia. 

The final image promotes the sale of pet food. The tradition of cartoons as a medium to promote foodstuffs (particularly by the French and Italian producers) was a strong influence which is still in evidence today. What ads like this show, apart from the implied humour, is that people have valued their pets for numerous generations prior to our own. Cartoons also help sanitise the fact that something has to die to become 'the product'. While chic girls on vespas and satyrs carrying bottles of wine (Cappiello) may be highly collectible...we cannot ignore the lessons that vintage images convey. Maybe our rose-coloured glasses need a colour filter!

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