(Click for larger)Â
Who can guess where this photo was taken (04/07/06)?
First, look at the image. Three people; one male and two females. All are quite young. It seems as if they are laying on the ground (on their stomachs). They are all laughing. The blue sky is in the background. Life, it seems, is good.
The ad was out the front of a McDonald’s. Not just any McDonald’s, but one of the ‘Jilliby’Â twin McDonald’s on the left and right sides of the main Sydney to Newcastle Freeway. What does the image do?
Firstly, it attempts to capture the affects of larking about. Paul Willis’s classic study of working class lads was an ethnographic project that examined how andÂ why working class kids got working class jobs. ‘Larking about’ was a kind of self-defeating defence mechanism against the brutalities of the labour market (and “ear ‘oles”) and was learnt during the kids’ schooling years. In this image ‘larking about’ is valorised; there is no indication of workplace discipline. That is, unless you read “Have a laugh” as less a suggestion and more as a directive.
Secondly, the clothing of theÂ two people on the leftÂ is telling. I think they are both wearing white, or at leastÂ the male subjectÂ is, I am not sure about theÂ female on the left.Â White is traditionally a colour that differentiates its wearer from the dirty mucking about of working class culture. Paradoxically that is why working class youth wear pristine white shoes and white baseball caps around where I used to live in Parramatta.
Third, the arrangement of the three.Â The left female propped (just) over the shoulder of the male thus giving the impression they are laying together. These two are the ‘good looking’ ones.Â While the second female, who also appears to be of a larger build, enters the frame from the side, on more of an acute angle relative to the other two.
Lastly, the composition is valorised not through the representation of ‘having a laugh’, but the appearance of the camera in the bottom right. Representation itself is not enough to indicate that something is desireable. Again, like the mobile phones in The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift, the camera serves as to valorise the scene through its promise of virtualisation.Â A particularÂ future is being repeatedÂ as a false memoryÂ (simulacra), which isÂ capturedÂ through the affective topologies ofÂ what could be called ‘Kodak moments’. The promise of technologically mediated memory is being used to condition the present by heralding a certain future. The logic: Take a photo, this is a memory; They are taking a photo, therefore it must be memorable; This is not your memory, but it could be!Â
There is little to do with reality in this image. No mention of third degree burns from deep friers, obese customers getting angry the soft serve machineÂ being stuffed,Â learing drunk propositions, stupid casual shift hours, and so on. TheÂ privilege is given to capturing the affects culturally associated with a certain life script: youth.Â The image attempts to literally operate as an apparatus of capture for cheaper youth labour. When I saw this image I thought to myself, surely it wouldn’t work, and actual youth would see through the bullshit.Â Yet, now, the more I think about it,Â in the current era of youth depression and the dead-end future of un-skilled labour, the image’s promise of ‘having a laugh’ andÂ havingÂ ‘mates’ to laugh withÂ may actuallyÂ be seductive…