Depth of Field, volume 3, no 1 (December 2012)Steven F. Joseph: Early Advertising Photography in Belgium and the Netherlands: a Preliminary Overview

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A whole class of photographs, including some of the most inventive imagery of the nineteenth century, was thrown away almost as soon as it was created. Advertising photography, although recognized from the beginnings of the medium as a potential revenue-earner by many professional photographers, was little regarded at the time and taken for granted by the business community that commissioned the work. Consequently, very little has survived, except for some trade and auction catalogues illustrated with photographs. Despite the paucity of original artefacts, a preliminary overview is attempted, by means of examples drawn from a wide range of products and services and in a variety of formats (from small insert cards to full-plate display prints). These examples are of Dutch or Belgian origin, whenever readily at hand, and are otherwise drawn from neighbouring countries. Photographers applied some of their most imaginative designs to advertise their own goods and services. The origins of the fascinating relationship between commerce and its reproducible image, from simple visual statements to complex branding, are worthy of further research.