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Topic section: Selling memories
TOPIC SECTION:
Selling memories
George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, summed up the company’s enormously successful marketing strategy in a few words: ‘Kodak doesn’t sell fi

Kodak advertising poster, c1925
Credit: National Museum of Photography, Film & Television/Science & Society Picture Library

lm, it sells memories.’ In so doing, he acknowledged the strong link in the public perception between photography and memory. Popular surveys of what people choose to photograph and why regularly ‘discover’ that one of our primary motivations for taking pictures is to preserve family memories. However, is this imperative something that photographic manufacturers have merely responded to? Or is it, rather, something they themselves have created?

The fundamental shift in photography heralded by the introduction of the Kodak camera in 1888 was to have a profound effect on the nature of photographic advertising. As photo
one of our primary motivations for taking pictures is to preserve family memories
graphy became a truly popular activity, the preservation of domestic memories was to become the dominant theme of all photographic advertising. Indeed, capturing personal memories was widely promoted as the raison d’être of snapshot photography. Yet this preoccupation with the mnemonic properties of photography did not appear overnight. There was, rather, a gradual change in focus from photography as a form of leisure to photography as a form of memory. Photography stopped cel
'In Memoriam' carte-de-visite, c.1875 Credit: National Museum of Photography, Film & Television/Science & Society Picture Library
ebrating the present and became, instead, a means of safeguarding the past and protecting against the uncertainties of the future.

Today, we are witnessing another change. The rapid growth and ease in communications, as exemplified by the latest generation of mobile-phone cameras, means that greater emphasis is now being placed on the ability to capture and view images spontaneously - ephemeral images intended to be enjoyed and then deleted. Instead of being told to ‘Save your happy memories with a Kodak’ we are now expected to ‘Share moments. Share life.’ As we delete these digital images are we also erasing our memories?


 
 
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Topic section: The mirror with a memory
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Since the 19th century attempts have been made to preserve our memories of people through photographs, but these may have also created ‘false memories’.  > more

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Topic section: Forget me not?
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In an attempt to capture more than just an image, photographs have been adorned with other memory triggers, including human hair.  > more
 
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