Judith Williamson ‘Advertising Articles’

Designed by Apple in California

images apple

Copyright Apple Corporation

Judith Williamson’s  article from the Source Photographic Review brings a familiar but much more analytical perspective to decoding advertising.

It is not surprising the position taken by the author and her comment on deity like of presence of Apple in the technology market is not new. Neither is the on going debate about the poor labour conditions of workers at Foxconn and other Chinese manufacturing plants who produce Apple products. The sharp contrast between the buy line;

‘Designed by Apple in California’ and the reality that this statement seems to be an attempt to counter the; ‘Made in China’ that is the reality for much technology hardware. The dichotomy between the claimed ease and benefits that Apple products bring to the lives of western consumers starkly contrasts with the conditions for workers in the far east is explored in the text.  Williams rightly in my view suggests the lot of chins worker making these products can be compared to the conditions of mill workers in England in the 19th century.

The use of a child in the advert, a child that might be far eastern also raises questions about what this narrative is saying. Along with this the near religious status that the combined words and image appear to be creating is also explored.

There is of course a particular  issue when talking about Apple and its questionable ethical position given that its products are often the choice of photographers, designers and other creatives. Indeed I sit  at my desk in rural Norfolk typing this blog entry on an Apple keyboard, looking at an Apple screen, all driven by an Apple desktop computer. 

What Williamson does in this article though  is break down in some considerable detail the links between the elements of the picture in the advert, that advertorial text and the real context in which the image exists. I was so engaged by the level and detail of analysis that while searching the internet for other articles by Williamson. I ordered a copy of her book about decoding adversing. Her capacity to track in minutiae every element of what is seen in an image and text is very strong and illuminating and something i am keen to explore further.

In her article about a Wedgwood advertisement that appeared in the Guardian Weekend magazine (date unknown) she deconstructs the advert image an picture elements unpicking notions of class, culture, heritage, consumerism and also makes contemporary new links. The comparison of the model to Rebeca Brooks, the editor embroiled in the News international phone tapping scandal brings an added political dimension to interpreting the adverts and indeed the photographers intention.


The image of a lavish table in an oppulant room, we assume in an up market house is described by Williamson as ‘Post Downton Posh’ and simultaneously manages to create a sense of the exclusive while actually seeking to make the product, Wedgwood chine more accessible. It strikes me that this is a central notion in adversing, managing competing and at times contradictory ideas

Key Learning Points

  • Image and text can exert control
  • Deconstructing every detail can assist in not only understanding motive and intent, but also as a photographer assist me in creating meaning
  • Advertising and semiotics are area I need to study in greater depth


Williamson, J. (date unknown) Wedgewood Source Photographic review found at: www.shootgroup.com/blog/judith-williamson ( accessed April 2016)

Williamson, J (date unknown) Designed by Apple in California, Source Photographic Review found at: http://www.ca-student.com/content/her


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