San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
The School of the Arts presents:
'Before and After'
Dr Christine McCarthy - University of Wellington, New Zealand
October 1st, 2015
School of the Arts Library - 11:30 am
Before and After
Reality television's climatic conclusions inevitably depend on contrasting "Before" and "After" images, which measure, for all to see, degrees of success or failure, within a context of presumed and comparative "improvement." Renovations, weight loss, and a miriad of other makeovers are mapped through this documentation of competitive newness, thinness, and betterment.
This paper explores the before-and-after genré of images, stated to be invented by Humphrey Repton in the late eighteenth-century with the emergence of his famous Red Books. It traces a history from medieval use of simultanbild, and the Biblia pauperum, and examines before-and-after images in the context of eighteenth-century Methodism and conversion stories of self-improvement, arguing that the predominance of "improvement" narratives in current uses of before-and-after images (e.g. the reveal in DIY Reality TV) derives from the early use of this image-type for commercial design as having a specific moral undertone of "improvement."
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