Assignment 2: The Sociology of Shopping

The concept for this assignment led on directly from the work I did in considering how to use props to tell a story. I thought that I could take photographs of shoppers outside very different shops to tell a story of social status and differences.


I wanted to build on the street photography work that I had done in the first part of the course. I am normally very reticent at taking photographs in the street and I wanted to push myself more to do this. I used my Canon S95 compact camera for this assignment. I feel much more comfortable using it in the street and it seems less obtrusive and I think that people are less conscious of being photographed. It is a well specified camera which I can operate in manual or automatic mode. For these photos I set it to shutter priority and a speed of 1/125sec to allow for movement in the street.


It also saves files in RAW format which was important on this assignment as one of the comments made by my tutor last time was that I needed to pay more attention to my post capture processing of images. This is something that I have given a lot more thought to this time.


I listed a number of shops, of various types, that I would go to and photograph shoppers as they passed. The only constraint being that someone in the image should be wearing a white shirt.


The shops I listed to go to were:

  • Harrods
  • Harvey Nichols
  • Sloane Street shops
  • Bond Street shops
  • Savile Row shops
  • Fortnum and Mason
  • Burlington Arcade shops
  • Carnaby Street Shops
  • Libertys
  • Selfridges
  • Bishopsgate shops
  • Gap
  • Marks and Spencer
  • Debenhams
  • BHS
  • Sports Direct
  • Primark


I spent a day in London and visited all of these shops taking photos outside. Waiting for someone in a white shirt to come past was rather frustrating as

  1. It was wet and chilly at times so you could not see if people were wearing a white shirt or not
  2. Some shopping areas wee rather quiet (Sloane Street for example)
  3. Just photographing people going past a shop does not necessarily make an interesting photo


Nevertheless I persevered and took somewhere around 200 photos over the course of the day with people wearing a white shirt somewhere in the image. Obviously it was not be the same shirt each time, but there were many types of white shirt being worn – tee shirts, blouses, check shirts with white in them. I managed to include one such shirt in each photo.


Whilst it was difficult to find an image with a white shirt each time I do think it has worked as a great leveler, no matter what the shop of the people outside they all have one thing in common – the white shirt and I think that this is important to the overall narrative – we are all the same.


I decided to include the name of the shops as part of the final image as I think that this adds to the story and explains the purpose behind the images. I wasn’t possible to include the actual shop in each of the images and therefore the text sets the tone for the story.


What have I learnt from this exercise?

I gave a lot of thought to this assignment and learnt to think of all the different ways in which I could try to produce a story. It doesn’t have to be a linear story it can build up an overall picture which I think I have done in this case.


I have put the photos in a particular order, but I don’t think that they have to be viewed in that order to get the story, the narrative would be the same whatever order they were viewed in. Some of this is down to the inclusion of the shop names as part of the image. Before starting this course I doubt that I would have considered text to be part of an image, but now I can see how it will add to the narrative.


I have given a lot more attention to the post capture processing of these images as this was a comment made by my tutor last time. As I have submitted prints for this assignment I have also learned to try to match the image on my screen to that produced on photographic paper -they weren’t the same and I had to produce a different image to get the same tone and colour rendition when printing.


Another comment made by my tutor last time was that one of the series of photos I produced was a bit weaker. This time I have tried to make sure that each of the photos is of interest by itself as well as being part of a narrative series.


The Sociology of Shopping