Capitalist Structures of Production
: In the age of digital reproduction, how closely does the digitally generated photograph mirror global economics?

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


It is the intention of this thesis to investigate the comparative means of production and mirroring of manufacturing processes that exist between the photographic image as advertisement and the manufactured commodity. It serves as a means to critique and reveal global capitalism, framed through the critical lens of contemporary photographic practice. The research takes the form of an in-depth study of capital economic structures and commodity production. The method of inquiry incorporates the author’s commercial involvement as a professional advertising photographer, communicated through an auto-ethnographic first-person narration of lived experiences as a Nestlé/Rowntree employee. The Nestlé case study provides insight into the commercial labour and production practices that exist between the photographic image and manufactured commodity. The inquiry method also employs aspects of Marxist dialectical materialism (method of descent). It involves a semiotic reading of the photographic image to reveal what lies beneath the surface of its commercially framed appearance, and this is made possible by the extraction and revealing of data structures contained within the photograph’s means of production. When made visible, data structures allow for new insights into capital production and allow the dormant aspects of labour to be revealed. These are insights that critically explore how photographic images may be viewed, analysed and read. They are interpreted and critiqued not on the external appearance of the commodities they represent, but through the physical revealing of the photograph’s own internal means of capital production. This doctoral study is practice-led and includes elements of art practice in addition to the academic text.
Date of Award19 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDale Holmes (Main Supervisor)

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