Article

'The New Heraldry': Stock Photography, Visual Literacy, and Advertising in 1930s Britain

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Abstract

Britain in the 1930s saw both an increasing use of photography in advertisements and the development of advertising photographs as a distinct branch of the medium. Amongst specialist advertising photographers were ‘stock’ photographers, such as Photographic Advertising Limited. The survival of the firm's extensive photographic archive allows a unique opportunity to study advertising practice from the point of production. Stock images were taken for their mass appeal, and the rise of popular visual literacy is a striking feature of the period. Contemporary critics coined the phrase ‘the new heraldry’ to characterize those forms of commercial design which harnessed this new visual literacy. This article examines the work of Photographic Advertising Limited in the light of these phenomena.

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... This stage of early specialization was characterized by local catchment areas and close proximity to large news companies and publishers. While there was little or no formal collaboration within a domestic market, the provision of international images over long distances was mainly accomplished through early international sales agreements, for the most part with exclusive marketing rights (Wilkinson, 1997). This early stage characterizes the ideal type of editorial agency as one that focuses on the timely supply of topical content to media publishers and which is still in existence today. ...
... Especially under conditions of increased competition and unstable market conditions, they render different advantages to individual organizations, such as firm survival, improved performance, or possibilities for imitation and innovation (Brass et al., 2004). Although stock photography has a long tradition in international sales cooperation (Wilkinson, 1997), the alliance behavior has been changing dramatically over the last twenty years. Apart from the cumulative growth of an ever more densely connected global network (Panitz and Glückler, 2016). ...
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... By the mid-1920s many critics were united in conceding that it "has a definite place in publicity" (Tregurtha 1926: 27-31), and by the early 1930s the Advertiser's Weekly commented, "The more one sees of modern photography the better" (March 17 1932: 409). In 1926 George Mewes established Photographic Advertising Limited for the provision of stock photographic imagery to advertisers as well as publishing advisory booklets containing sample advertisements (Wilkinson 1997). At the same time, many photographers had begun to carve out a career for themselves in advertisingin 1938 there were 800 commercial photographers working in Britain (Searle Austin 1938: 37)-including E. O. Hoppé, who was involved with promotions for Lilley and Skinner shoes, and Howard Coster, who produced imagery for Forsyth golfing clothes, Diemel shirt fabrics, and Dexter overcoats (Tregurtha 1926: 27-31;Coster 1934). ...
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