Reviving Ghosts ads at Wiles Colloquium
Revealing/Reviving ghost advertisements: Using street photographs to visualize outdoor advertising in modern Shanghai.” Wiles Colloquium, 23-24 June 2017
On June 23, I will participate in the 2017 Wiles Colloquium entitled “New Lenses on China. 23-24 June 2017: Photography in Modern Chinese History and Historiography”, hold at Queen’s University, Belfast. The program is available here.
My talk will deal with “Revealing/Reviving ghost advertisements: Using street photographs to visualize outdoor advertising in modern Shanghai.”
Visual historians have often focused on press advertisements to examine and reveal the patterns of modern consumption or urban cultures in Shanghai. This paper will first show the value of using street photographs to engage with neglected forms of advertising within the city: billboards, neon signs, flags, tramway or rickshaw ads, and many other eccentric forms of outdoor advertising. Furthermore, photos may be used to shift the gaze from cultural representations or discourses to the material and physical, as well as social and political aspects of advertising. Photos may reveal how advertising artifacts participated in shaping urban landscapes; how they were perceived and experienced, either as a visual pollution, a beautifier for the city, or a danger for ordinary citizens in their everyday life. Yet one should not be blind to the limitations of photographic sources: dating, localizing, identifying brands, companies or people, tracing their genealogies and contexts of production, are but a few of the many challenges that historians have to face. This paper will eventually explore various digital tools that open new possibilities for using photos as historical sources or materials for writing visual narratives.