Consuming Representation: A Visual Approach to Consumer Research
REPRESENTING CONSUMERS: VOICES, VIEWS AND VISIONS, Barbara B. Stern, ed., pp. 193-230, New York: Routledge, 1998
57 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2009 Last revised: 8 Jun 2015
Date Written: 1998
The purpose of this chapter is to develop ideas about photography as a consumer behavior and as a researcher practice, by examining social science research traditions, photographers, and consumer research that utilizes photography. Photography is one stream of many in representing consumers. Interactions between photography and identity - personal identity, gender identity, ethnic identity - are analyzed to demonstrate the functions of photography as an important site for discussing issues of representation. Through a selective, personal review of photography focused on the production and consumption of photographic representation I develop a framework for incorporating photography into consumer research that bears on questions of consumption, identity, and representation. The paper draws on photography writings, consumer research, social science research, and personal narrative to discuss the role photography plays in the construction and representation of identity. Mass media photography - popular magazine photography, art photography, books, and popular film - is analyzed, employing concepts of the gaze, identity, and representation. Throughout, travel photography will provide illustrative examples. Consumer researchers might be considered 'tourists' in these matters, casting the 'tourist gaze' upon other methods, other fields, and research 'subjects' in our quest for new scholarly resources and frontiers. This metaphor will be explored through an analysis of travel photography, theories of tourism, and personal reflection. Through a discussion of photography and identity, I intend to sketch an outline of a theory of consuming representation.
Keywords: consumer behavior, consumer research, ethics, photography, visual communication, visual culture
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