It’s assignment time again in communications class. This time I am to make a Flickr slideshow of exactly 20 interesting images that tell a story. Since my overarching theme for the semester is to highlight my computer science work, my slideshow focuses on how I set up and ran an event for the department in which everyone got together and played games. The party took a long time to plan and three weekends to really get set up, but it paid off in the end.
We had to use Photoshop to enhance five images and post the before-and-after pictures too. Here they are.
Interpellation: hailing viewers as individuals. In chapter 2 of Practices of Looking, Sturken and Cartwright discuss various forms of advertising and why they are effective.
Successful advertising draws people in by connecting with them directly. Consider the ad on the left for example. It was designed of course to be viewed by many people, but it speaks to each viewer on a personal level. No matter who “you” are, this phone “gets you.” Mobile phones are very personal goods, usually you don’t share them with anyone, and this type of advertising make it seem like HTC designed the phone with you in mind.
One of the tricky things about advertising, though, is that the interpellation effect of images is best achieved when one is already a member of a “social group that shares codes and conventions through which the image becomes meaningful.” For an image to personally touch someone and for the punctum of photography to be effective, the photo should be designed with you and people like you in mind.
The idea about advertising is to try and draw everyone in, regardless of social group or ideology. Even if an ad isn’t targeted at you, it should capture your attention and attempt to interpellate you anyway.
Take Super Bowl ads for instance. Not every ad in the Super Bowl is targeted at everyone watching, but all of them do a great job of getting your attention and sticking in your mind. Utilizing the shared ideology of Americanism, the Super Bowl ads speak to not just sports fans but to the largest possible audience. Even if you aren’t planning on buying a car, you can probably relate to the Jeep ad above which emphasizes American patriotism and supporting our troops. This isn’t by accident. Most Americans watch the Super Bowl, and thus the ad is made to target “most Americans.” If the Super Bowl was held in another country, the ad wouldn’t be as compelling, but it still tries to interpellate the viewer through other aspects, such as the importance of being home to raise a family.
As far as how images achieve their punctum, Sturken and Cartwright define aesthetics and taste. The aesthetic value of a photo is the “pleasure it brings us through its beauty, its style, or the creative and technical virtuosity that went into its production.” Taste, on the other hand, is “informed by experiences relating to one’s class, cultural background, education, and other aspects of identity.” Images that are in good taste are commonly put in museums, but the problem is that good taste is then defined by the museum curators. The fact that something is in a museum sends a message to pay attention to it, that it’s an example of what is good.
Today’s reading covered the realm of action sports photography. Chapter 6 of David Rowe’s Sport, Culture, and Media discusses the subjectivity of photography at first, then delves into the differences portraying sportsmen and sportswomen. Let’s examine the former first.
Cropping for effect
Rowe points out that any picture can have it’s meaning changed just by taking away information from the audience. “Photographs attain meaning only in relation to the settings in which they are encountered.” Just like in regular journalism, you can manipulate the truth in photojournalism by omitting facts or playing with the size, positioning, or captions in the photo. Rowe also says that we as individuals see meaning in photos in regards to our own personal circumstances. “When looking at a sports photograph, our response to an image of a despondent athlete will be largely conditioned by our relationship to them,” since viewers are the ones who give photos their meaning.
The great gender divide in sports photography
Take a look at the two pictures I featured at the start of this article. In the men’s tennis shot, you see an action shot, and the women’s tennis ad is obviously more passive. Rowe shares a study from 1979 about Sports Illustrated that shows that “60 percent of all photographs of sportswomen showed them in ‘passive, non-athletic roles’ compared with only 44 percent of all photographs of sportsmen,” and I chose those two pictures to illustrate this point. In general, women in sports always seem to be objectified and passive, as if they don’t matter as much as men. In contrast, men’s sports always seems to be a serious matter, and men are usually shown to be active participants.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, and photojournalism uses these theoretical “words” to tell stories. Stephen Quinn and Vincent Filak define photojournalism in Convergent Journalism: an Introduction as a medium “not restricted to still pictures or film cameras or any location. Photojournalism tells stories about life.”
In video, pictures are displayed as part of a larger sequence, and frames aren’t really meant to be viewed on their own. Photojournalism tries to find that one image that tells the best story, and can be examined in great detail. Quinn and Filak use the example of sports photography vs. sports TV to show how much more detail you get in the still-frames of photojournalism, and how sequence oriented TV stills are.
Back in the day, you needed a whole bunch of equipment to take good pictures, and a completely different set of technology to take good video. In the modern world, all you need is a smartphone. Quinn and Filak mentioned the first known photojournalist, Roger Fenton, and how he kept a truckload of equipment with him on his quest to capture the war. He brought back a few hundred pictures in a few months. Today, some Instagrammers that take a few hundred pictures in a week. Old time photo exposures took over a half a minute to complete, so you couldn’t really do moving shots. It’s also why people never looked very happy back in the day. (You might not have anything to smile about after 15 minutes of sitting still.) With the latest cutting-edge technology, in contrast, you can record video and extract 15 photo-quality stills from every second of the action.
Quinn and Filak discuss various image presentation styles, such as the single hard hitting image of a newspaper or the sprawling magazine spread, and how successful web photographers can combine these styles as well as draw upon slideshows and other interactive features that print media isn’t capable of, as well as utilizing the almost unlimited space on the web for photo galleries, videos on demand, and content for which no extra room exists in the paper or on TV.