Photography’s Role in Promoting Consumerism

Colèchi talks to Laura Tobin to hear her thoughts on how photography is negatively promoting consumerism in fashion.

As the trends change, photographers have the facilities and tools to document each trend, capturing a different narrative and lifestyle for campaigns, so that consumers feel differently towards each trend, encouraging them to consume’ (p. 27).

What is the title of your work? 

The Role that Photography Plays in Promoting Consumerism, with an Emphasis on Fast Fashion.

What do you think photography’s role is in promoting consumerism?

The most significant point I investigated was influencer culture, Instagram and the notion of narrative, which encourages consumers to shop. The concept of selling desire and identities through the use of photography has led to fast fashion hyper selling. I investigated the role that photography plays in promoting the fast fashion industry. Over the last decade, the fashion industry has undergone significant shifts, especially the rise of fast fashion. Globalisation has connected the world with an increase in consumer goods and services and the fast fashion industry is booming as a result of this. Dominated by consumption, fast-changing trends and low-quality garments, the fast fashion industry has become largely popular amongst young people and has resulted in significant consequences on the environment.  

How was your paper influenced by modernisation in technology? 

Through technological developments, the new tactics employed in advertising through modern media and the influence that fashion photography has on consumers throughout the 21st century, enhances the emotional connection consumers feel with the garments being advertised. I combined both an historical and modern theory analysis and examine[d] several photographic examples from the advertising and photography industry to further enhance the understanding of the thesis. I also investigate[d] the histories of fashion photography, advertising and the digital cultural phenomena to demonstrate the role that photography has played in promoting consumerism, with an emphasis on fast fashion.  

Did you make any key discoveries about how photography impacts our consumption of fast fashion?

A key discovery that I made when writing this dissertation was [that] the fast fashion industry is having a big impact on young people’s identity. Young people want to dress exactly like influencers do on Instagram, in [the] hope that they will have the same life as them. Thus leading to them reinventing their identity every-time trends change.

‘These pressures that consumers feel, has led to fast fashion items being tossed after only a handful of wears and young people constantly feel the pressure to reinvent (p. 32)’.

What did you conclude on the role that photography plays within consumerism?

[My] research and investigation demonstrated that the continuous growth of advertising, consumerism, and photography from their inception into the digital era, has led to the success and prevalence of fast fashion. With a focus on Instagram, the concept of selling desire and identities through the use of photography has led to fast fashion hyper selling. Through investigation, it is found that the role photography has played in promoting fast fashion is prominent, particularly with the development of Instagram, which has ultimately led fast fashion consumerism to become a major concern in the 21st century.

Do you think the discoveries you made will impact the future of photography in fashion culture? 

The discoveries that I made when writing … impacted the way I live massively. It also inspired family members and friends to change their approach to fashion. I wish that my dissertation could reach a wider audience as I do believe that the facts, figures and information provided are particularly hard-hitting, which I believe would inspire quite a few people to make conscious changes to their shopping habits.

Does the work you created while studying Photography have any relevance to the work you are doing now? If so, how? 

The topic … was something I was interested in before writing, however, I did not understand the extent of the issue. Now, since writing the piece, I see myself as a sustainable fashion advocate and it is a part of my lifestyle now. 

Since completing my final piece, I have created two projects surrounding the issue – one called Remake and another called the Capsule Magazine – A Guide on Saying “No” to Fast Fashion. I currently work as a barista, whilst I strengthen my portfolio in my spare time, however, once I do decide on my career goals, I think my field of work will be in the sustainable fashion area.

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Laura Tobin

Laura Tobin

Laura attended Edinburgh Napier University and graduated with a BA in Photography in 2021. She is an enthusiastic and innovative creative, who has a passion for craft. Alongside her love for photography, she also has a strong interest in graphic design and illustration, which can be seen throughout her work. She strongly values the importance of spreading kindness and positivity, as well as creating memorable and impactful projects. She was recently highly commended for a Creative Conscience Community Award and was also awarded the Best in Show for the Napier Degree Show. She has been featured on various platforms, such as The Arena and Jorja's Podcast. She also enjoys taking daily snapshots with her 35mm film camera and producing branding design for local businesses, although her passion lies within fashion photography and publication design. Additionally, she enjoys uplifting others and community building through creating platforms and offering a helping hand. She has recently curated the publication 'HerStory' which features a wide range of female creatives in the hope to promote their work and create a community. This is something she hopes to continue with throughout her career, in various creative roles and passion projects. When she isn’t trapped behind her computer screen, she can also be found at her part-time barista job (constantly trying to perfect her latte art), at the seaside, or watching way too many romantic comedies! links website - Email - Instagram - Twitter - LinkedIn -

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