In class on Monday we discussed Regina Bendix's book on authenticity, its relation to the commodification of culture, and its legitimizing powers, both for culture and for folklore as a discipline. I ran across an item on an arts e-marketing blog that touches on authenticity from a different angle. The blogger, Gene Carr, reported on a Poynter Institute study that said the following:
Live, documentary news photos -- photos of real people doing things in real time -- got more attention than staged photos. Studio or staged photos received little attention. [emphasis in original]
Carr encouraged marketers to use action, candid, or backstage images instead of publicity stills, adding that online, "Authenticity is more important than almost anything else."
Why is that? Authenticity, or at least the perception of authenticity, clearly adds value. I think that for one thing, people want to feel knowledgeable, to feel like insiders. That includes getting a peek behind the slick, packaged images that we see everywhere. We like being able to know the difference between reality and virtuality. It's that eternal quest to be (or seem!) smart enough to get at the truth. More than that, however, maybe it's another way that we look for connection. We've talked in class about how folklore has been seen as an antidote to the alienation of the modern world, and that latching on to tradition - any tradition - simulates community and a sense of being grounded in time or place with other people. Seeing a candid photo of an artist gives the illusion of really knowing him or her as a person, of being a part of that community (though this feeling is as artificial as the staged publicity photos). And it seems that this feeling of connection, of being one of the savvy few, adds value to a cultural experience.
What do you think?