An octopus wrapping its tentacle around a cliff, a cheese wheel rolling through Revelle College, and a fish swimming through study rooms might seem like random and dissimilar images, but it is how UC San Diego chooses to advertise itself to prospective students and employees. UCSD’s slogan is “break things better” and therefore it uses these images on its main website to convince people that they would discover the unimaginable if they attend UCSD, which is something they might not achieve at another university. However, the images UCSD uses do not represent the experience of attending this university, so why would the communication’s department choose these images to advertise the university if it cannot live up to this?
UCSD is just one actor in this wide social trend. The ease of photography has led to its popularization in our modern culture as any photographer can alter what they see and manipulate the subjects in the photo to fit their visions or agendas. This can end up deceiving the viewers and persuade them to take at face value what the photo represents.In this way, photography offers insight into just one of the ways in which UCSD misrepresents images of its own campus to recruit students.
Photography allows us to sell a certain representation of ourselves by carefully selecting which photos to post or share. However, it could become problematic when we leave the virtual reality and actually interact with our friends and loved ones who might have developed erroneous expectations of us due to our portrayal on social media. Similarly, in order to advertise its innovation and originality, UCSD uses classic structures like Geisel Library and the “Fallen Star” house to introduce the illusion that the university is pushing the boundaries of what is normal. UCSD’s advertising is so saturated with these two images, that they have become the university’s defining factors. However, upon visiting the campus, students could become disillusioned to find the rest of the structures are not as avant-garde. Even further, we could become disappointed to find a lack of the common theme of innovation at UCSD, when in fact its architecture is incompatible and inconsistent. If UCSD wants to have divergent themes across campus in relation to its architectural structures, the advertisements and photos used should present the full range of UCSD’s appearance whether it’s as photogenic as Geisel Library or not.
Furthermore, photography could be manipulated to influence or dissuade people from embarking on an experience. People can idealize or demonize an experience or location based on images which convey only a choice, hand-selected view of the subject. Maybe a photo puts a certain location in a bad light and can dissuade someone from going and experiencing it for themselves. Or the opposite: a photo can be altered and intensified to portray a bluer beach or a prettier landscape and deceive the viewer into having false expectations upon their arrival. UCSD’s “campus life” page is full of photos of compacted students at a certain event or concert. Whether it be at The Loft or at a sports event, UCSD uses photos of students bunched together to showcase the popularity of these events despite the fact that many of their campus events do not receive such a big turnout. Many times UCSD uses outdated photographs to advertise certain occasions because of the turnout received at that time. Students can end up being disenchanted by the sparse attendance which could discourage them from attending another event.
Photography is one of the most pervasive art forms, and anyone with a smartphone or a camera can be considered an amateur photographer. Photography is an amazing art form that can introduce us to something that we might not have thought existed and thereby broaden our view of the world. However, we must always be on guard of what a photo depicts and recognize the ease of manipulation to prevent it from guiding our actions or beliefs.