Photo Essay

Over the last few weeks, we have been reading and talking about the history of American consumer society and advertising. During this time, we have focused on selling practices in rural communities, new urban forms of retailing, and new forms of advertising and promotion during the late nineteenth century.

This assignment is an opportunity to apply historical insights to the contemporary world.

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While thinking about these past developments, identify a modern example in each of the following categories:

Promotional signage

Retail environment

Branded goods

Take a photograph of each modern example that you identify. Then, write a critical essay that draws connections between historical developments we have addressed in class and your modern examples. Each of your modern examples should be paired with a photograph.

Note: The photographs in your essay must be original! Do not use images pulled from Google Images or other online sources. Taking your own photographs will force you to pay attention to examples in your everyday life.

Example: You might take photographs of a campus flyer (promotional signage), a chain store interior (retail environment), and cereal boxes on a supermarket shelf (branded goods). Your essay would then draw connections between each of these modern examples and historical developments, as addressed in the course readings. You might draw upon Henkin’s “Word on the Street” for your analysis of the campus flyer, Boorstin’s “Consumption Communities” for chain store interiors, and Strasser’s “The Name on the Label” for cereal boxes. These are just some ideas. You do not have to use these specific examples. Be creative!

Important: Your photo essay must draw upon at least three of the following sources.

Walter Friedman, “Hawkers and Walkers,”
Birth of a Salesman (2004), 14-33.

David Henkin, “Word on the Street,”
City Reading (1998), 69-84.

Daniel Boorstin, “Consumption Communities,” The Americans: The Democratic Experience (1974), 101-136
and 137-145

Susan Strasser, “The Name on the Label,”
Satisfaction Guaranteed (1989), 29-57.

Evaluation: Your photo essay will evaluated on the basis of its 1) engagement with relevant course readings, including references to specific examples and concepts; 2) the quality of your modern examples; 3) your ability to identify meaningful connections between past and present practices; and 4) the insightfulness of your comparative analysis.

Your photo essay should be 750 words (approximately 3 pages, double spaced). Attention to writing, spelling, grammar, and proper citation constitutes part of your grade. Late papers get a reduced grade of one half (e.g., B becomes B-) for each day beyond the deadline, including the weekend.

Essays must be submitted via Canvas by midnight on Monday, March 1.

Citations: You do not need to submit a bibliography with your paper. However, be sure to include in-text citations when referring to specific examples or direct quotations from the course readings.

When citing a source in the text of your essay, use parenthetical references that include the author’s last name and page number(s). For example:

Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, believed that self-reliance allowed one to avoid the trickery and fraud of selling (Friedman, 26-27).

If using the author’s name in the text of your sentence, then cite the page numbers only. For example:

According to Friedman, Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, believed that self-reliance allowed one to avoid the trickery and fraud of selling (26-27).

Please feel free to email me with any questions you have concerning the assignment.

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