Matthew Belanger

new media artist

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Cycle
Cycle

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In 1996 I began taking photographs in large super markets and big box retail stores with a point and shoot film camera, a Yashica T4. I was drawn to this subject by a desire to critique marketing techniques and the practice of mass consumption.

At that time, before the rise of online retail à la Amazon, these massive brick and mortar stores were truly at their peak, expanding consumer culture in the United States to levels not seen before. Throughout the 1990s, stores sprung up across the American landscape at the same time factories were closing down, enabling the transition of the United States from an economy of production to one based on consumption.

I began this work by composing shots only of products on display, not usually including people. Eventually however, I developed a style of shooting from the hip that enabled me to generally capture shoppers without their knowledge. After some early internal conflict related to taking images of people without their consent, I later embraced the notion that these stores are essentially public spaces, and that the people shopping within them have little expectation of privacy.

By 1998 I had purchased my first digital camera, an Olympus D-340L, the first affordable 1 megapixel point and shoot camera. The low fidelity of this format appealed to me, and I transitioned to shooting digital instead of film for the remainder of this series. The images displayed here were all taken with this early digital camera. It felt absolutely appropriate for documenting this particular subject, and still does.