Making History a Slightly Profitable Thing. The Bettmann Archive and the Commodification of Images

Blaschke, Estelle. (2014) Making History a Slightly Profitable Thing. The Bettmann Archive and the Commodification of Images. Visual Resources. An International Journal of Documentation, 30 (3). pp. 222-238.

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Emerging in the beginning of the twentieth century to “satisfy the picture-hunger of modern man” (quoting Jan Tschichold, New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers, 1995 [1928]), photo agencies and commercial picture libraries have held a major role in transforming images into commodities. With mass production and spurred by heightened competition, these companies adapted ever-more efficient methods of storage, indexing, administration, and distribution. This article traces the concept of the Bettmann Archive, established by the German historian, art historian, and librarian Otto Bettmann (1903–1995), during the early 1930s. Bettmann's application of his bibliographical skills to pictures and his efforts to create a pre-electronic visual database can be regarded as quite advanced for its time, especially in the commercial context. In particular, I argue that the reduction to keywords and the de-contextualization of images is an essential condition for their commodification.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Künste, Medien, Philosophie > Fachbereich Medienwissenschaft
UniBasel Contributors:Blaschke, Estelle
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:25 Oct 2021 08:28
Deposited On:25 Oct 2021 08:28

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