A CENTURY OF SPIN An exhibition about PR photography By Factotum
17 October – 28 November 2008 Exhibition opening 16 October 2008
There never was a time of innocence. Photographs have always been used to keep the vain and ambitious in the public eye. But in the 20th century with the growth of mass media and public relations an entirely new repertoire of tricks was invented to harness photography for publicity and self-promotion. These included the publicity stunt, the press conference and the photo-opportunity with their now familiar cast of glamour models with lions, politicians with new slogans and businessmen with giant cheques. From the Antarctic explorer and self-publicist Ernest Shackleton, to the Hollywood agents of the 1930s and the global PR companies of today this exhibition encompasses sinister news manipulation and trivial small town commercialism. From Troubles propaganda to the vision of property developers it shows how PR photography has shaped and distorted the way we see the world.
Factotum was formed in 2001 by Stephen Hackett and Richard West. It publishes The Vacuum newspaper, runs a choir and has organised a number of exhibitions including the 'English' show in Belfast Exposed in 2005. Also in 2005 Factotum received a Paul Hamlyn Award and was selected to participate in Northern Ireland's first showing at the Venice Biennale. In 2007, having selected for the Curated Visual Arts Award by the artist Mike Nelson Factotum made a film which will be shown in 2009.
A Century of Spin is supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council
*Image captions Jim Moran, c. 1940/ Corbis
Publicist Jim Moran uses a specially designed sun costume to 'scientifically' determine which of US states, Florida and California got better sunshine. The stunt was produced for Moran’s client, radio show host Fred Waring and was keenly observed by the Tourism officials from both states.
Shackleton, 9th January 1909/ Royal Geographic Society
At 88 degrees 23' S, Shackleton, Adams and Wild stand beside the Union Jack. This photograph was taken during the Nimrod Expedition and represents the furthest point south reached by anyone at the time. Shackleton was a great self-publicist. He had an exclusive contract with the Daily Mail.
Michelin Man, March 1979/ Belfast Telegraph
Workers at the Michelin factory in Mallusk, Northern Ireland, celebrate the introduction of an advanced new tyre type.