Journal Article

‘The New Heraldry’: Stock Photography, Visual Literacy, and Advertising in 1930s Britain

HELEN WILKINSON

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 10, issue 1, pages 23-38
Published in print January 1997 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 1997 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/10.1.23
‘The New Heraldry’: Stock Photography, Visual Literacy, and Advertising in 1930s Britain

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Britain in the 1930s saw both an increasing use of photography in advertisements and the development of advertising photographs as a distinct branch of the medium. Amongst specialist advertising photographers were ‘stock’ photographers, such as Photographic Advertising Limited. The survival of the firm's extensive photographic archive allows a unique opportunity to study advertising practice from the point of production. Stock images were taken for their mass appeal, and the rise of popular visual literacy is a striking feature of the period. Contemporary critics coined the phrase ‘the new heraldry’ to characterize those forms of commercial design which harnessed this new visual literacy. This article examines the work of Photographic Advertising Limited in the light of these phenomena.

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Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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