February 2, 2007

The Capital Of Consumerism


Estados Unidos es la capital de consumerismo;

los “Malls” o centros comerciales, su máximo

exponente.  Abiertos las 24h, ir al supermercado

es para muchos estadounidenses una forma de

entretenimiento.  Para mí, se convirtió en una

aventura fotográfica, entre pasillos, cajeras,

carritos y cupones de descuento.  Supermercados

son la historia de miles de compradores anónimos

marcados por el consumismo.

— Ariadna Arnés


If you missed the story, its because the media refused to swing at the latest pitch in the Administration’s distraction game.  “Workers are making more money — their paychecks are going further. Consumers are confident, investors are optimistic,” said the President at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.  Adds a White House photo caption: The President’s “unscheduled visit marked only the second visit by a sitting president during regular Exchange hours.”

If you’re interested in Bush’s full remarks, you can read the transcript (starting from the beginning, where he frames George Washington as his namesake, to the bitter end, where he uses the physical and emotional proximity of Ground Zero to once again milk 9/11.)  But, as is characteristic with this White House, you can save your time by just reading the pictures.

How do you draw public attention away from the war?  How do you get people to play ball with you again?  You play the “consumerism card.”

Ariadnareaching1 Ariadnaumbrealla1


Ariadna Arnés, one of the talented photojournalists I’ve met here in Barcelona, visited the States for the first time in 1988, attending an exchange program at Rochester Institute of Technology. These images, taken in upstate New York, capture her earliest impression of America.  Translated, the quote above reads:

The United States is the capital of consumerism, the malls or shopping centers are its biggest draw.  Open 24 hours, going to the supermarket is, for many Americans, a form of entertainment.  For me, it became a photographic adventure, between aisles, boxes, carts and coupons.  Supermarkets are the story of thousands of anonymous buyers branded by consumerism.

More American than defense of the homeland, the flag, or even baseball is the American right and mission to spend.  How vast is this right (so skillfully and shamelessly stimulated by the science of marketing, wall-to-wall advertising and the lure of easy credit)?  To express that dimension has become the challenge of creative imagination.  Click on Ariadna’s photographs — especially the top two — to see what I mean.

It’s possible the Bush reputation is so damaged, nothing can save it.  On the other hand, if what keeps America strong, as Bush told the government and business leaders in New York, is its economy, then to remain “the undisputed leader in the world,” we need to exercise it, invest in it, stimulate it.

If it’s a recycled message, its potentially still potent one:  Don’t worry, go shopping.

Besides your general comments, Ariadna will be available over the next few days to join in the discussion.  Images from the series: Supermercados. All images © Ariadna Arnés.  Used by permission.

(White House photo: Paul Morse.  January 31, 2007.  New York. whitehouse.gov)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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