Stephen Wilkes

A highly influential photographer based in New York, experimenting in both the commercial and artistic fields. I wanted to express particular interest in his work due to its vast content and highly aesthetic appearance. I want to focus my attention on his series titled “Ellis Island” in 2006; “…named one of TIME magazine’s 5 Best Photography Books of the Year” (Wilkes, S. 2016). Another series titled ” Day to Night” was also highly influential and evocative. Both of these explore the transition and illustration of time. Images from “Ellis Island” include compositions of sections of buildings. These worn down and possibly derelict buildings, capture and illustrate time by taking a single snapshot and in doing so represent many years of neglect.

These images appear raw, aged, worn and untouched, and in some cases reclaimed by nature. I find this series highly significant because the featured images illustrate time in an unconventional way, they represent the aged, neglected and untouched, but feature a highly aesthetic appearance with rich colours and textures; representing the grotesque and forgotten in an eye-catching and enticing style.

Similarly, Wilkes’ project titled “Day to Night” also illustrate the passing of time but on a much smaller scale. The series featured wide sprawling land and cityscapes that document a single day in one image. Signifying the change from the day to the night in a single composition. Again these images are highly stylised and aesthetic, featuring high definition and immensely detailed composition through the use of bright and rich colours that appear to draw the viewers in. Again, Wilkes’ style and content is a fundamental influence on my work due to his implicit illustration of time but also his artistic style and approach to this.

The Ties That Bind: Measuring the Strength of Consumers’ Emotional Attachments to Brands


This text allowed me to gain a strong understanding of attachments that further enabled me to build an initial starting point for my project in a manner that allowed me to construct a well-informed argument and understanding into attachments so that this knowledge could be related and applied to attachments to objects.

“What Is an Attachment?"

"The pioneering work on attachment was conducted by Bowlby (1979, 1980) in the realm of parent-infant relationships. According to Bowlby, an attachment is an emotion-laden target-specific bond between a person and a specific object.”  :77-78

“The objects to which consumers are emotionally attached, however, are few in number and are generally regarded as profound and significant (cf. Ball & Tasaki, 1992; Richins, 1994a).” ;78-79

“...strong attachments are attended by a rich set of schemas and affectively laden memories that link the object to the self (Holmes, 2000; Mikulincer, Hirschberger, Nachmias, & Gillath, 2001).” :79

Restabilizing attachment to cultural objects. Aesthetics, emotions and biography

I used this text to briefly study attachments to material object, allowing me to gain a wider understanding of object-related attachments and why they occur.

Objects, as ‘equipment[s] for living’ (Luhmann 2000), become the ‘obligatory passage points humans have to contend with in order to pursue their projects (Latour 1991). They provide patterns to which bodies can unconsciously latch onto, or help human agents work towards particular states of being (DeNora 2000, 2003). Objects are central in the long term process of taste construction, as any attachment to an object is made out of a delicate equilibrium of mediators, bodies, situations and techniques (Hennion and his collaborators (Hennion and Fouquet 2001; Hennion and Gomart 1999).” :780

“Bourdieu (1984) has also looked at how stable the meanings of objects are by emphasizing the role of homologies and dispositions in guaranteeing that objects a) have only one available set of instructions and uses; b) are closely related to particular positions in the social structure; and c) serve as boundaries that create distinctions between competing groups (on this also see Lamont 1992).” :781

"Bourdieu (1984) has also looked at how stable the meanings of objects are by emphasizing the role of homologies and dispositions in guaranteeing that objects a) have only one available set of instructions and uses; b) are closely related to particular positions in the social structure; and c) serve as boundaries that create distinctions between competing groups (on this also see Lamont 1992)."

Why owners have emotional connections with cars

This text informed me of the phenomenon whereby owners form attachments with their vehicles, offering a greater understanding whilst conceptualising why this may occur. This text also linked me to an original study that discovered proof that owners personify their cars, enabling me with proof that attachments are formed with vehicles.

It found that 49 per cent of owners identify their car as either male or female, while owners aged between 18 and 24 were roughly four times more likely to name their car than owners aged over 55.”

“…that women were more likely to personify their car with a nickname than men.”

“The accepted cliché is that men have a more passionate, personal relationship with their beloved cars, while women view them as utilitarian machines that get you from Point A to B,” Van Sach said.”

““This indicates an emotional and personal vehicle attachment in these demographics, one that auto marketers might want to explore and leverage.”

Survey Reveals Relationships with Cars Mimic Relationships with People

Discussing evidence of road users establishing strong attachments to their vehicles, to the degree where ‘personification’ occurs. This represented a solid and reliable source that offers credibility. The content was exceptionally relevant to my project as it justified my initial investigations whilst simultaneously highlighting and conceptualising supporting evidence that could offer insight into our attachments with vehicles.

According to the survey, consumers tend to personify their cars to the point that the relationship with them mirrors relationships with living beings in their lives. More than 70 percent of respondents feel "very attached" or "somewhat attached" to their cars, with 36 percent describing their vehicle as an "old friend" and more than a quarter saying they feel sad when they think about parting ways with it. Dependability (65 percent) and comfort (52 percent) were the primary drivers of attachment.”   More women than men said they were attached to their cars because of the way it looks (48 percent of women vs. 29 percent of men), while more men than women bond with their cars because of fond memories of the adventures they shared together (57 percent of men vs. 20 percent of women).”

[Michelle Callahan] "In addition to the large financial investment, a car can become a significant emotional investment – it's there with them for major milestones in their lives like weddings, new babies and graduations and it's literally the 'vehicle' that makes being physically present in these moments possible."

Still Feeling the Car – The Role of Comfort in Sustaining Private Car Use

This text broadly examined how a vehicle is portrayed as an enabler of contemporary existence as well as developing potential reasons and conceptions as to why we sometimes form attachments to our vehicles. This text discussed such reasons in depth, providing me with some reasoning and wider contexts in and around my photographic investigation.

…the role of the psychological appeal of the automobile, with an emphasis on the way the car fulfils various symbolic and emotional needs (e.g. Steg 2005; de Groot and Steg 2007; Bergstad et al. 2011). “ :727

“This literature often positions the car as instrumental to a socio-technical system, determining not only the way we travel and the spaces in which we travel, but also ‘the formation of gendered subjectivities, familial and social networks, spatially segregated neighbourhoods, national images and aspirations to modernity and global relations ranging from transnational migration to terrorism and oil wars’ (Sheller and Urry 2006, 209)” :727

“It revisits Sheller (2004) to centre the body as a site of attachment to the private car and proposed that the physical sensations associated with being in, and in control of, the car, need to be considered to any challenge to its ongoing authority.” 727

“Inspired by Thrift’s longstanding concern with the ‘sensuousness of practice’ (Thrift 1996, 1 and also Thrift 2004), the paper positions ‘feeling’ as an important element of the practice of being mobile. It describes the way the positive sensuous experiences facilitated by the modern day automobile contribute to popular preferences for car-driving.” :727

“The paper progresses to employ contemporary conceptualisations of social practice theory as a way to explore this association’s contribution to automobility’s endurance.” 727

Feeling is grounded within bodily sensations…

Use of the term feeling in this instance does not refer to an emotional response – such as feeling empowered, free, constrained or angry. There is a fine line, and an obvious relationship, between what it is for a body to feel and any emotion associated with that feeling.” :728

“Feelings are culturally interpreted, yet experienced in a profound and often exclusively corporeal way by the individual.” :728

“In many modern societies, the collection of sensory experiences provided by the private car has become the standard of comfort that is desirable when practising mundane physical mobilities. The enclosed cocoon of the cat is therefore now a space where contemporary rules of feeling are both lived out and defines (Sheller 2007; Jensen 2009).” :728

Analysed theories of social practice…

…routine human action is understood as a product of collective social practices influenced as much by the environment as it is by personal preferences or processes of deliberations (Hitchings 2011).” :729

“Practice theory provides tools and perspectives which are potentially powerful when applied to explorations of mobility behaviour.” :730

“Practice theory allows for a conceptualization of the way transport practices are dependent on the active integration of various elements (Watson 2012), such a skills, materials, meaning and feelings. Exploring mobility requires an unravelling of these elements to look at the way its practice may be both supported and discouraged by the complex orchestration of the parts of a whole.”:720

“Feeling can reveal rich understandings into what motivates practices, yet practice theory does not generally consider sensory experience as anything but socialised.” ;731

“The dialectical relationships that exist between sensibility and auto mobility have touched upon by the psycho-social literature on mobility behaviour seeking to prove a predisposition to car supported sensations such as empowerment, self-esteem, safety and superiority (such as Steg, Geurs, and Ras 2001 and Steg 2005).” :731

...feelings are sensed through embodiment and regulated through cultural conventions ; determined by social / sensory acceptibilitY (Bendelow and Williams 1998.)

“Indeed, automobility supports a geography of sensibilities that are ‘seemingly instinctual yet clearly cultural achievement’ (Sheller 2004, 225). These individually experienced and culturally moderated sensibilities are as central to understandings of the persistence of the car’s hegemony as rational-instrumental and other approaches emphasising the car as technically and politically cemented.” :731

“…the sound systems (Bull 2004), cocooned privacy (Hiscock et al. 2002) and ergonomics of the car (Laurier and Dant 2012) are used.” ;731

Sensibilities support enduring attachments to the car…

Inclusion of feeling as an element of practice enables practice theory to offer a way to bridge the gaps between biological conceptualisations of car-supported sensibilities, their technological facilitation and enculturation, and resultant routine expression in practice. A focus on practices enables explorations of the ways feelings are ‘elicited, invoked, regulated and managed’ through culturally influences ‘expectations, patterns and anticipations’ (Sheller 2004, 226). And a more explicit consideration of the role of feelings in sustaining or shifting practices might give clues as to consider the way that problematic practices might be challenged.” :731

Connected to other activities such as socialising, working and parenting (:731)

Pride related to cars…

Study participants regularly expressed a yearning for their bodies to be on the move. This was articulated in many ways.” :735 - sense of repugnance when the body was interrupted

“It can be related to the well-conceptualised relationship between automobility and freedom, in that car use fulfils a yearning to move unimpeded (see for e.g. Fleiter, Lennon, and Watson 2010; Popov 2012), and is tied intrinsically to the fundamental role of power and feelings of empowerment in sustaining automobility (Bohm et al. 2006; Paterson 2007; Merriman 2009; Jensen 2011).” :735

“It expressed as simply a need to be moving, and not necessarily a need to be extrinsically empowered through movement. Participants regularly insinuated that a body that is held up in some way is a body that feels uncomfortable, whether that be a body waiting for a bus connection, dressing for a bike commute or sitting amongst congested traffic”. :735

Although the body is moving, when it is strapped into the car it is physically motionless…

This is not, therefore, even actual bodily movement, as much as it is the complex physical sensation that comes from a body that is carried, yet remains in control of the carriage.” :735 - linked to ideas of satisfaction caused by movement

“…the car is associated with the comfort and the maintenance of personal space often surfaced in the literature on its appeal”. 736

“To travel without a car is to endure a sense of close proximity to strangers, to be with people you would not normally choose to be with, to be out in the weather, to have to climb over people and be ‘squashed together’ (Ben).” :736

“Harry : It’s more comfortable in the car, especially in winter, if there’s a southerly blowing, I like sitting in the car, even in the summer. Because I have caught public transport and it gets sweaty in summer and there’s people knowing you around when its busy.

Chrissy: It’s [public transport] inconvenient, and the comfort – if it’s hot and you’re sweating or it’s raining so you get wet, or [pause], it’s just not comfortable.” :737

“Jain and Lyons (2008), for example specifically conceptualised travel time as a gift instead of a burden and Bull (2004) also describes the way the car offers ‘temporary respite from the demands of the other’ (249) – a respite which is only enhanced through personalisation of sound within the cocoon of the car.” :737

Autoethnography on car use, link to memories and experiences: Car as a comfortable and private space…

Cars are ‘listening rooms’ “(Larry), a place to talk to the kids (Jackie), listen to audio books, music and university lectures (Chris), a place to call parents (Diane) and catch up with friends (Chrissy), a place to connect to the world through talk-back radio (Anthony), as well as a place to chill out, relax and de-stress after work (Ben).” :737

“Larry cited the idea that the acoustics in the car were far superior to those on headphones and therefore better for listening to music.” :338

“The car is therefore explicitly perceived and felt as a very personal and private space. It is a place where the body is shielded from others, and from the biophysical environment. It is subsequently a place that can be used to do things which would not otherwise be possible in modern lives characterised by rush and publicness.” :338

Cars are thought of as an easy method of transportation!

They expressed desires to take the ‘easiest way’, avoiding the physicality of riding a bike, the corporeal interruption of changing transport modes or the need to be weighed down by a back pack filled with towels, toiletries and a change of clothes. This indicates a very subjective and embodied desire to avoid any unnecessary expenditure of physical energy.”  :738

“In expressing this aversion, study participants are demonstrating the way the relationship between the material objects and bodily sensations involved in the practice of mobility can create resistance to alternative transport.” :739

“There is an aversion to the expenditure of bodily energy and subsequent acceptance of reliance on the other form of material energy to power mobility. This is an aversion that is biologically influenced. It is born out of innate and very human desire to rest and nurture the body.”  :739

“Resistance to alternative transport is therefore, in part, an attempt to negotiate energy expenditure and maintain a body that feels at ease and rested rather than a body that is tired and burdened.” :739

“Many of the sensory experiences associated with automobility are liked to what it means to be automobile in modern life.” :739

“…previous research demonstrating a strong appreciation for the car as a comfortable place to be. They spoke in depth about the positive feeling associated with the air conditioning, personal spaces and acoustics of the car.” :739

“It is no accident that many of the cultures characterised by private car-based automobility are also those which foreground individual interests and promote the maintenance of high self-esteem and the pursuit of its own goals’ (Boiger and Mesquita 2012, 225). For some, the feeling of discomfort is a practice of self-care which maintains a sense of self-pride and appeals to culturally inculcated desires for freedom and security. Driving the car, avoiding the rain and hot weather, the sweaty people on the train, the danger of riding a bike and the inconvenience of waiting, are all practices of self-nurture – they have become what it means in modern life to look after oneself.” :739

“…culturally constructed, politically played and economically reinforced right to automobility ...” :739

“The contribution here is refinement of a particular element of automobility’s ensemble which has become an acutely robust expression of this sense of self-entitlement.” :739

“As automobility has evolved to highten the sensory experience of driving, these elements, and the relationships between them have shifted to endow car driving with the hegemony it now enjoys in many cities around the world.” :379

“The comfort of the cocoon of the car is regularly positioned as a relief from the stresses associated with modern life (Hiscock et al. 2002; Mann and Abraham 2006; Jain and Lyons 2008). Car driving provides both special and temporal privacy – a patrician between the self and ‘the gaze of the outside world’ (Brown 200, 63).” :379

“It is a place for ‘me time’, a place for myself, to ‘zone out’, a place to own, and a place where they are not forced to interact. In this sense, the feeling of privacy supported by the space of the car, increasingly enhanced by technologies of personalisation (Cohen 2012), compensates experiences of surveillance in other areas of life, such as in open plan offices and higher density housing.” :739

“Sensory experiences provided by the care therefore can enhance car driving’s ability to compete with an array of other practices.” : 342

“The fact that driving is a recurrent practice has reinforced the appeal of car comforts, such that they are now an expectation rather than an extravagance. Feeling the car, reinforced through collective everyday performance, therefore contributes to automobility’s self-perpetuation and ultimate endurance.” :742

*For the love of Cars

*Potentially look at the personification of cars; anthropomorphized cars

[Cars]…become key components of an emerging consumer culture. Each brought mobility, one geographical and the other visual, to what Henry Ford called 'the great multitude'.”To give them a more human visage the animators eschewed the standard use of headlights as the location of the vehicles’ eyes. Instead, eyes appear behind windshields, allowing a greater range of expressiveness. Also adding to believability are the voices provided by a group of A-list actors who are capable of investing just about anything with human qualities.” :294

“To try to plumb deeper meanings in Cars would be a stretch, but it is fair to say that the movie reflects a positive vision of automobiles and their place in our lives. This follows a long-standing movie convention, where cars bring mobility and freedom, and only occasionally are treated as sources of individual or collective trouble.":295

“…most of us see our cars as essential enablers of a modern lifestyle." :295

“Yet this affection for automobiles has to be tempered with the inescapable realisation that automobile ownership requires budget-squeezing expenditures on fuel and maintenance, rapid depreciation, the frustration of traffic c jams, and the ever-present danger of accidents." :295

“Turn on the radio, bust out a song”: the experience of driving to work

“Auto Motives – Understanding Car Used Behviours”

“Digital Dirt and the Entropic Artifact: Exploring Damage in Visual Media”

This text broadly examines the transition from analogue to digital photography and the resulting impacts on damage and viewer reception. J. Kilker (2009) argues that damage and degradation of material media communicate much to the viewer about the outside context amount image production, distribution and maintenance; stating that the act of viewing damage invites critical contemplation and reflection on the object of attention. I am using this text to gain a wider understanding of photography and its dynamic historical developments. I am also using this text gain a wider understanding of entropy, to which I am applying this knowledge to my photographic project around the entropic deterioration of vehicles resulting from inside (human) and outer (environmental) tensions. This text has allowed me to justify my intentions to focus on damage as a prompt for critical reflection around the wider contexts of the social significance of objects and commodity fetishism.

"The transition from photochemical to digital imagery presents an exceptional opportunity to re-examine damage and the “entropic artifact” (one that reveals its interactions with time), as well as how technology mediates our visual experiences. " :50

"In photochemical media, damage provides intuitively understood cues about the passage of time, value of the artifact, and its handling. As digital media are adopted, decisions about content encoding, how damage is visually represented, and what contextual metadata is stored influence the inevitable process of damage in digital images." :50

"Our understanding of each photograph is influenced by the interaction between form and content. A viewer will likely imagine three very different histories: The pristine restored photograph could appear sterile to some viewers, while the well-worn one has a history encoded in the underlying “damaged” medium. The error message would probably evoke frustration with the technology because it had given no prior warning of failing." :51

"I argue in this article that damage provides an important function for understanding the “lives” of media artifacts, and that this understanding will be complicated and modified as we switch to digital media." :51

"It is common to see damage that was considered undesirable in earlier media, such as fading in photographic prints and skipping in vinyl records, employed purposefully for reasons of nostalgia or artistic expression. But examining damage in digital media is particularly timely because the recent and rapid adoption of these technologies means that most people as of yet have little understanding of digital damage or its long-term visual implications." :51

"Yet damage to the form of the medium itself is also an indicator of the passage of time, and, more importantly, of the quality of that passage through time." :51-52

"By far the most dominant perspective on damage is that it signifies error, an aberration to be corrected or avoided. But what defines an “error” and how one reacts to it are socially constructed (Pinch, 1993)." :52

"...damage has both historical and aesthetic value." :52

"George Eastman House photography archivist David Wooters emphasizes “viewing photographs not simply as transcriptions of the world, but as products of interaction between the world, the photographic medium, the photographer, and even the audience” (Mulligan & Wooters, 1999, p. 29)." :52

"That of the ideal pristine artifact, in which damage is problematic and to be avoided or repaired; and that of the entropic artifact, in which damage acknowledges mortality, temporality, and serendipity." :52

"Signs of age and decay in artifacts have value when they signify authenticity and preserve the historical integrity of the object (Lowenthal, 1994)." :52

"Deterioration is accepted as part of a natural process, and the object is considered damaged when its function, not its material, is impaired” (p. 151, emphasis added). For these curators, who are negotiating cultural and professional identities, visible damage serves an important ethnographic purpose; removing or disguising it inappropriately negates the passage of time and erases evidence of usage." :52

"Photographs of damage and decay often evoke poignant reflections among viewers." :53

"Viewers observe the reproduced decay from a secure distance rather than through a damaged visual medium itself." :53

"Damage increases the ambiguity and abstractness of the content and encourages the viewer to reinterpret the original visual content. A moderate amount of damage can lead to complex readings of otherwise unremarkable images. Too much—or too little—damage can render images difficult to appreciate,..." :55


AutoTrader (2013) Survey Reveals Relationships with Cars Mimic Relationships With People. Autotrader [Online] 4 January. Available from: [Accessed 29 October 2016]

Benzecry, C. (2015) Restabilizing attachment to Cultural Objects. Aesthetics, Emotions and Biography. The British Journal od Sociology [Online] Volume 66 (4) pp.779-800 [Accessed 29 October 2016]

Basmajian, C. (2009) “Turn on the Radio, Bust out a Song”: the experience of driving to work. Transportation [Online] Volume 37 (1) pp.59-84 [Accessed 29 October 2016] (2016) Why Owners have emotional Connections with Cars. Available from: [Accessed 29 October 2016]

Hall, S. (2014) Why Owners have emotional Connections with Cars. Drive [Online] 14 January. Available from: [Accessed 29 October 2016]

Kent, J. (2014) Still Feeling the Car – The Role of Comfort in Sustaining Private Car Use. Mobilities [Online] Volume 10 (5) pp. 726-747 [Accessed 30 October 2016]

Kilker, J. (2009)  Digital Dirt and the Entropic Artifact: Explaining Damage in Visual  Media. Visual Communication Quarterly [Online] Volume 16 (1) pp.50-63 [Accessed 30 October 2016 2016]

Lucas, K. (2011) Auto Motives: Understanding Car Use Behaviours [Online] (1st) Bingely: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. [Accessed 30 October 2016]

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Volti, R. (2007) For the love of Cars. The Journal of Transport History [Online] Volume 28 (2) pp.294-296 [Accessed 29 October 2016]

Wilkes, S. (2016) Fine Art. Available from: [Accessed 29 October 2016]