Branding self-identity.

Everything looks different if it’s pictured in print, on TV, or within the frame of a computer screen.

When I was kid, my parents’ garden was selected to be featured in Sunset magazine.  I had grown up in that garden — climbing the plum tree to reach the ripest fruit at the top, lying on my back in the moss to find shapes in the passing clouds, sprinting down the back steps to fetch my parents bell peppers or spinach or basil for dinner.  I was familiar with the beauty of the garden but also with the dirt and mud, the snails and pill bugs lurking everywhere, and the reeking compost heap in the back shed.

And so when a shiny copy of Sunset arrived in the mail and my parents showed me the images of our garden, I barely recognized it — the lotuses wide open, the California poppies without even a hint of wilt.  Every color looked more vibrant than it did in real life.  The pictures were either very close-up or taken at angles that allowed our tiny city garden to seem to extend long into the distance.  It was our garden, but bigger, brighter, and someone’s version of better.

company-identity-brandingWhen it comes to human beings, I would argue that media has an even more marked effect.  Flattering lighting, photography, and airbrushing has been brought to the level of an art.  These phantasmic images can be used to create allure and social power.

As my month-long advertising purge came to a close, I began thinking about how individuals market themselves.  Through facebook, myspace, and other social networking sites, we become our own products.  Nothing is a simple representation of fact; we decide what images and information will represent us to the world.  Check out this article on building a personal brand, and this posting on facebook-fueled self obsession.  The process is even more evident when it comes to blogs and personal websites.

Authenticity: come out, come out, wherever you are.  The modern world misses you.


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6 Responses to “Branding self-identity.”

  1. Undercover Punk Says:

    I’ve been thinking about your post here, and it’s absolutely true. I say the same thing about my therapist’s assessment of me–she only knows what I tell her! And I ONLY put up cute pictures of me on the internet. I’m vain like that.
    But I also want to share with you what happened over the weekend: my partner has been announcing some of her personal short-comings on facebook, such as having road rage or using alcohol as a coping technique, and has received lots of positive feedback from her internet friends. (I know, I know, society totally encourages drinking!) Certainly, neither of us are hoping to sell our personalities to others for romantic purposes, which I suppose changes the game considerably, but I totally agree that we should be mindful of mis-representing ourselves. At least we shouldn’t be in denial about the delusions we’re constructing and presenting to others as Reality!

    Thanks for the article links–those are good ones!

  2. Malcolm Says:

    Check out Ian Hacking’s “Making Up People” in Edward Stein’s Forms of Desire. He makes a connected point through his discussion of “dynamic nominalism”-

    “numerous kinds of human beings and human acts come into being hand in hand with our invention of the categories labeling them…”

    Coupled with the technology we have to disseminate categories and highly specific identities rapidly, I think we have a lot to consider: what is authenticity, anyway, if we are largely self-constructed? What responsibilities do we have when we present ourselves to the world (it seems, short of opting out of public and Internet spaces, we must present somehow)? Etc.

  3. Tanya Says:

    “flattering lighting, photography, and airbrushing has been brought to the level of an art”

    I’m a photographer. I know all about the flattering lighting. I see the models when they arrive in their every-day clothes and I watch them being transformed by a make-up artist, a stylist and some awesome clothes and accessories.

    Then I take a photograph of this dream-person who I can barely equate with the naturally beautiful girl who arrived at the studio earlier in the day. That escape from reality, the art, the surreal experience and the resulting images are pure joy for me. I feel like I’m creating art WITH the model, the stylist etc. We’re collaborating to make something fabulous and fun.

    I don’t do uber-touch-ups unless it’s as part of a larger concept defined by a client (ie for an advertising campaign which combines photographic and digital elements). I have never and would never change the shape of a model’s body or facial features.

    Sometimes I receive emails from retouchers soliciting for work. If I felt the need to hire someone else to process my photos for me, I wouldn’t be a photographer.

    It makes me die a little inside every time someone asks me if I’m going to ‘photoshop them’. No, I photoGRAPH people! Urgh.

  4. Undercover Punk Says:

    Ma’am, I keep finding your blog linked to on other people’s blogs! The people want you! Just sayin’. Also, I’m reading Whipping Girl. Have you read this? I plan to have discussion about it @ next month. Please stop by after Thanksgiving. I’d offer you a cocktail but you know how this internet thing prevents sharing of three dimensional objects… Cheers!

  5. Undercover Punk Says:

    What is WITH my inability to close italics? Sorry. That’s for practice.

  6. highfemme Says:

    Ask and you shall receive, dear Undercover Punk! Thank you for prompting me to get my ass in gear and update the world about recent happenings. I’m working on a post now — it’ll be up later today.

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