On Roland Barthes:
A difficult exercise to deal with – I am particularly bad at captioning my work so to take newspaper photos and try to put a different meaning on them was a tall order. I have given it a go, leaving the original captions underneath and they are below. This was pushing my wordsmithery to my limit but I tried it. I thought about the flip side of what they were telling me – Colonel Gaddafi for example visiting France on humanitarian grounds when the news reports him as a dictator; McPartlin being nominated for a Nobel award for a cure for alcoholism when he has just gone into rehab; and so on. Not the most original but the object here is to think about what you are saying and whether you are describing the image or adding a different dimension to what you are seeing. Does the picture fit the words or is it saying something else? This is something that is going to be important in the Assignment 4.
It is a very basic storyboard as it is something that I haven’t really considered before as well as being lacking in the drawing skills department. The story also is basic but it’s the point of the exercise that is important rather than the content.
The main gist of the story comes across in the sequence so it is pretty obvious what is happening. I did two sets of captions to see if the way I looked at the narrative changed, and whether I could change what the story was by changing the captions. The first set was very basic and not really adding anything. In fact they reinforce the narrative rather than add something different. The story is: going out for a walk with the dogs; one disappears; then the other; nothing while all parties are looking for each other; one appears; greeted with joy; other one appears; firmly on the lead to go home.
The second set I tried to be more obscure and suggest a darker meaning. It could be that the person is in a much darker place and going out with possible bad consequences. In fact there are a couple of perspectives at work with one possible scenario being that the person goes out and tries to leave the animals behind but then thinks better of it. The alternative is that the person goes out with the intention of losing themselves but the animals prevent them from harming themselves by looking for them and finding them.
Adding captions was harder than I thought because I think this is one of the weaknesses that I have generally anyway. Titles can be very literal or banal and I am always impressed by really good titles that can add something to the image. This is something that I will need to work on, and I found it particularly tricky in Assignment 3 where I had a lot of images and not enough of an idea to caption them so that the titles added something to them. This exercise, while not being particularly creative, made me think about how artists caption their work and how the caption along with an explanation creates the context in which to view it. They do guide the viewer looking to understand work. I was thinking this when looking at David Favrod’s work Hakiri, because my view of the image was enhanced by the explanation although not necessarily by the title. Sometimes I find Untitled the most frustrating title as I am left wondering about meanings, but perhaps that is why they do it, to allow the viewer to make their own narrative for the image.
As an additional thing, I went out with the dogs and using my phone tried taking some images that would tell a similar story, not easy when it all has to be at arms length! It was interesting looking around and seeing how I could translate the storyboard into actual images. Here are the images for a set that varies a little from the drawn narrative:
Choose a day that you can spend out and about looking with no particular agenda. Be conscious of how images and texts are presented to you in the real world – on billboards, in magazines and newspapers, and online, for example. Make notes in your learning log on some specific examples and reflect upon what impact the text has on how you read the overall message.
Consider: Does the text close the image down (i.e. inform or direct your reading) or open it up (i.e. allow for your personal interpretation to play a part in creating the final meaning)? What do you think was the intention of the creator in each instance?
Adverts adverts everywhere. We are bombarded by images and text, advertising everything, exhorting us to buy buy buy, spend spend spend. Telling us what to do, what to think and what we should be achieving. Watch our health, beware of thieves and absolutely. Do. Not. Park. Here. Street signs are there with restrictions rather than helpful information. Newspapers are full of holidays, investment plans, away days and what we should be doing to our homes and gardens.
I wandered around the town of Paignton this afternoon and took time to look around me as I walked through the shopping area and the back streets by the church. A lot of the shops had signs outside to advertise offers or to show what they were selling, pictures and words. “Come in, we are open.”
Convenience stores had photographs of beautiful fruit and veg with smiling staff outside while inside the reality was not as portrayed: the colours of the fruit not so bright, the selection not so lush and the staff not so smiley on a damp Friday afternoon in the Easter holidays. Meanwhile, there were signs that promised a regeneration of an old cinema and to be part of it while the hoarding was tattered and the building unchanged.
I compared a local newspaper and a national newspaper to see what was going on in there too. The national paper was a weekend edition with a magazine supplement. In there, there was an featured home of a designer with a double page spread of photographs of the interior. The interior was expensive and full of things that most people could not afford but I suppose that that is the point – this is something to aspire to, to give ideas of what things you could have to brighten your home. I look at these houses and wonder if anyone actually lives in this perfection as my home is untidy and needs cleaning and tidying just to break the surface let alone look like this!
The local newspaper had a lot of images of local events and then adverts. This page was about food to eat at easter. The thing that struck me was that it is very busy with layers of images and text, and a couple of font styles. Bottles of wine are layered over food, but the main picture is of a meal that is centred around wine. It’s all about eating and drinking.
I was interested in this page. The photograph at the top of the page is of a beautiful ship in Torbay and that echoes the heritage of the area which has a busy fishing port and had a ship building industry on the River Dart round the corner. Below that is a huge headline about the ban that affects the beaches of the bay that means dogs are not allowed on the beaches during the summer months. There is always controversy about the early start to the ban as beaches are empty in the evenings and could be put to better use. The headline dominates everything on the page, screaming to be heard on what is really a banal subject. Followed by an advert for cheap eggs. From dogs needing to run free on the beach to advertising for a product that possibly come from hens kept confined. Freedom versus confinement, but I do not know. It’s just a thought.
The next one had two stories about the less populist aspect of life with two stories about police attendance at incidents. It just made me laugh out loud that the face had been obscured with a smiley face – totally at odds with the fact he was smashing down someone’s front door. It trivialises what they were doing which was raiding houses of suspected drug dealers in Torquay. Why a smiley face, was he supposed to be enjoying himself?
And of course, with summer approaching it is time to get into the gym and slim down and tone up ready for the beach or the wedding or a special event. It seems that doing it just because it might be a good thing to do on a more long term basis is not on the agenda. Short term fixes are the name of the game. I also looked at this from the point of view that if you slim down and get fit then you might end up getting married as a result.
It was an exercise in looking around me and I did that, although I do tend to wander along looking at signs and images, often with a cynical eye. Adverts are designed to make you buy something, change something or comply with something. Notices and signs and images are everywhere, we use pictures to put the message across then bolster it with words. My overall impression is that most are directing you to think in a certain way rather than leave it open for interpretation. This is certainly true of advertising. Newspapers are full of adverts, the magazines of beautiful photographs of houses, food and clothing. Generally they are designed to sell products or services, depending on the situation of the ad or article. In music magazines for example, the photographs are there to illustrate the writing, to underline the subject matter. From a personal point of view, I often look closely at the image and disconnect it from the rest of the writing in order to study it, see how they managed to get that look, effect or feeling. Sometimes they inspire me to try something different in my photography.
I looked at Number 15 in the series of Looking at Adverts, on cosmetics for men and the masculinity of products. Adverts for men are full of images of men who are depicted as rugged, athletic, groomed. In particular, it made me think of adverts for perfume and aftershave. The female versions are of beautiful women in situations that suggest mystery or that they are childlike in a wonderland. Some depict women running away in dressed in beautiful dresses. It seems that the female will get her man if she uses this perfume. The male equivalents are full of suited males, looking important and busy or athletic and outdoors lovers with diving off cliffs or coming out of the waves. The epitome of this is the advert for Invictus aftershave by Paco Rabanne where the Hero is a god who conquers all including the women. It is a bit tongue on cheek but still attaches the Hero status to what is basically a cosmetic grooming product.
Dawn Wooley says that “The Clinique for Men adverts seem simple; the commodities are not cosmetic products but tools for men. They facilitate ‘work’ and perform some sort of labour.” I have noticed this too, from the packaging for men’s products. Most of it is in strong dark colours such as navy blue, dark green or grey. The packaging is functional without any other pictures or wording – clean lines on dark packaging. I agree that it appears “the product is made to signify a scientific process, an investment and a form of labour”. Why should this be? From the female perspective I find that cosmetics for women are now colour coded as being fun, flirty, a bit naughty to indulge yourself but it doesn’t matter because we are worth it. This is the opposite of men – females are allowed to indulge themselves and are expected to do so; for males it is functional rather than desirable. So maybe they do become tools.