The Corporate Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial Culture, 1884–1929

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In the late nineteenth century, corporate managers began to rely on photography for everything from motion studies to employee selection to advertising. This practice gave rise to many features of modern industry familiar to us today: consulting, "scientific" approaches to business practice, illustrated advertising, and the use of applied psychology.

In this imaginative study, Elspeth H. Brown examines the intersection of photography as a mass technology with corporate concerns about efficiency in the Progressive period. Discussing, among others, the work of Frederick W. Taylor, Eadweard Muybridge, Frank Gilbreth, and Lewis Hine, Brown explores this intersection through a variety of examples, including racial discrimination in hiring, the problem of photographic realism, and the gendered assumptions at work in the origins of modern marketing. She concludes that the goal uniting the various forms and applications of photographic production in that era was the increased rationalization of the modern economy through a set of interlocking managerial innovations, technologies that sought to redesign not only industrial production but the modern subject as well.


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Selected Bibliography
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Էջ 8 - The gain from these slide rules is far greater than that of all the other improvements combined, because it accomplishes the original object for which in 1880 the experiments were started — ie that of taking the control of the machine shop out of the hands of the many workmen and placing it completely in the hands of the management, thus superseding " rule of thumb
Էջ 7 - He found, however, that his efforts to get the men to increase their output were blocked by the fact that his knowledge of just what combination of depth of cut, feed and cutting speed would in each case do the work in the shortest time, was much less accurate than that of the machinists who were combined against him.

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Elspeth H. Brown is an associate professor of history at the University of Toronto and the director of the Centre for the Study of the United States, Munck Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

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