The lives that consumer culture cannot reach

I’m a big fan of The Sunday Times, and in particular their Spectrum section (and not just when it features National Cheerleading Champions). In their own words, Spectrum ‘showcases astonishing photographs from the front line of life over 12 awe-inspiring pages’. True enough.

This weekend, sitting on a sun-drenched Clapham Common on a welcome weekend break from the marketing bubble in which I live my week, I found the images particularly worthy of reflection. The cover feature, which always contains a collection of stunning and astute shots illustrating one central theme, this week concerned itself with ‘Bare Necessities: The lives that consumer culture cannot reach.’

In the feature, we were shown a glimpse of a world beyond everything we know. Imagine a place with no iPhones, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Internet, no TV, no shopping (in the Western sense), no advertising (in the mass-consumer sense) and no commercialisation of absolutely anything.

Pretty difficult, huh.

And yet, as the images below will hopefully show, this world does exist – in fact it is very much a part of our own. Albeit a few thousands of miles away in the Greater Caucasus mountain village of Xinaliq (Khinalug) in Azerbaijan.

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I think why they struck me most was because it actually tore a fairly sharp rift through what I do for a living, and therefore a huge part of who I am (well, maybe it shouldn’t be ‘therefore’, but that’s another issue entirely…)

In the marketing world, we live for commercialism. We live and breathe the brands we work so hard to protect, to grow, to promote – and yet, when it really comes down to it, what does it all mean?

In the end though, everything is relative. World economies are built very differently and comparing my yuppie life in South London with mountain-life in the upper mountainous regions of Azerbaijan is perhaps futile and the two are incomparable. But I do feel it is a comparison that we should nevertheless strive to make occasionally, and can learn from, in order to fully appreciate what the priorities in our lives should be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and in living the life I have I wouldn’t choose to work in any other industry. But it does make you think how different life could be with a markedly different spectrum of experience.

*(Hopefully The Times and talented photographer Rena Effendi will not mind me replicating the images here, but please do check out her whole collection here to see more stunning shots.)


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