Chapter 4 – Evaluation
Once distributing my small postcard packages (fig. 12) I decided waited for a few days before asking for any audience feedback, as it would give time for the individuals within the small group to appreciate, reflect and internally discuss the creative response piece without any external influences. At this point in time my triangulated opinions and thoughts discussed through the first three chapters still support the idea that studio lighting techniques along with digital photo manipulation is there to give people what they want, as oppose to the idea that it is there to manipulate people. The creative response piece (set of packaged postcards) now stands alone in itself to hopefully support and solidify the idea discussed within the earlier chapters in due course.
Strengths of the visual
In terms of the visual itself (fig. 13) I feel as though the imagery itself has been executed very well. The six shots that have been used on the set of postcards have a sense of consistency to them, this element of consistency is evident through: the use of shadowing, the use of either a white or black background and also the use of close-ups shots which have been taken using a 180mm macro lens. The ability to see the texture of the material of each item/object is reflective of the attention paid to the lighting techniques used and focus of the camera lens; the level of detail captured in each shot is one of the strengths of the creative response piece, there is a sense of intimacy within the frame and a notion of understanding of the meaning of the item to the photographer.
Looking at the set of imagery from a broader perspective without knowing the meaning of each item to the individual it is clear that the shots are crisp and objective, they resemble stock imagery similarly found on a Google search. I feel `as though the images clearly reflect the use of research that was initially conducted before each shoot for each individual item. As a series of images they work as a collective and also stand well alone as a singular image in there own right. I also feel that the brown paper packaging and hand-drawn type labels give the overall piece a personal touch. I think that the decision to illustrate the names of each individual (fig. 14) in a typeface that represents their personality was a good decision; there is an element of homegrown craft to the overall feel of the piece. Essentially the packaged postcard set is consistent yet individual to each person involved.
Weaknesses of the visual
Although I have mentioned above that the shots work as a collective and are consistent as a collective I do feel to a certain extent that the image of the recycled fork bracelet stands out a little, in comparison to the way that the other images slot in with each other. This could be due to the fact that the image has been shot on a black background as oppose to a white background. However this design decision was made due to the fact that the colour of the bracelet contrasted the black background better in comparison to getting lost within the colour of the white background. Inevitably a sacrifice had to be made here, my decision was to follow through with the contrasting black background, which clearly brought out the spectrum of oranges (fig. 15) within the stone of the bracelet rather than producing a less powerful image that was ‘in line’ with the rest of the product shots, however that did not bring out the beauty/focal point of the bracelet within the frame. Although this is a minor weakness I still feel as though the shots work well as collective considering this slight alignment issues. Looking at the actual postcards themselves I feel as though not enough attention and detail was paid into the cutting and trimming down of the edges. After looking at all seven sets of postcards that were printed I could have been more careful with trimming down of them, the postcards themselves are fairly accurate however a few of them are a mm or two out in comparison to another. In hindsight each and every postcard should precisely be the exact same size to the previous, although this is not a major issue it is a slight weakness in the overall aesthetic that could have been avoided. Looking back on the card that I used I feel as though after printing and distributing them that they could have been printed on slightly thicker card, at the moment they have been printed on 80gsm card however in the future if I was to print them again I would most defiantly source some thicker card of maybe 90/100gsm from a external retailer to print on.
Things that could have been done better
In hindsight if I were to have more time along with the studio lighting technique skills that I have developed in the earlier parts of the production of the images, I would go onto producing more shots from each person. Essentially I would look at shooting around 3-4 shots for each individual, which would give me a grand total of around 18-32 postcards altogether, with these images I would look at alternating background colour’s so that there are two different consistent coloured backgrounds, ensuring that there are no images that are slightly out of line or out of place within the set. I feel as though I could also expand on the description on the back of the postcards to include the meaning of the item/object to the person it belongs to, however this would need more time, thought and consideration in terms of wording and sentence structure to work coherently. The use of typography on the rear of the postcard could also be a element that could be improved, the decision to go with the type on the back right now was purely down to its aesthetic value on the postcard, I did not consider leading or kerning when placing the type on the postcards, I feel as if I were to be able to improve the type on the rear the graphic design element of the postcard would be stronger.
Before receiving any audience feedback I decided to get some peer feedback on my response piece. A few of the main ideas that came up when in discussion with Kate Green and Alice Morton was that the project itself seemed very personal and engaging with the audience that it is aimed at. They highlighted that the imagery was very professional and commercial ‘almost like stock imagery ‘ (Green, K. 2014) which essentially was the approach that I intended and discussed to aim for in my proposal in chapter three. The idea of giving somebody something was feed back as a positive, the fact that I was giving someone something more than what they already had seemed positive too. The peer group feedback was left on a fairly positive note Alice and Kate both agreed that from a external perspective they would have loved to be apart of the small group of individuals who were involved with the piece and who would in the near-future get to received the set of postcards that I have created.
After giving the small group of individuals their postcards I set up a small gathering/focus group style interview with a few pre-prepared questions in mind. I didn’t want this feedback session to be to formal as it would hinder the response and could end up fairly leading, if a set of questions were formally written down, I wanted it to be free of any bias and flow like a conversation. Initially the response from each individual was that the piece itself seemed very personal and engaging ‘You tailored the postcards so that they had a personal touch to each individual yet collective elements running through each set, I fee engaged into each others as well as my own’ (North, E. 2014), the objects themselves clearly reflect each person that they represent and this is apparent purely through the imagery.
Ewan who is a graphic designer also commented that he thought that the layout of the postcard, the style in which it had been shot and specially the product style shots were executed to a high standard. Which interestingly was surprising as there seemed to be no conscious awareness from any of the participants towards the professional-style product shots and there face-value ‘cold stock-imagery’ nature. In a sense their reaction towards the images were quiet the opposite, ‘The level of detail captured in each image through the use of close-up shots really helps you to connect with the item/objects’ (Needham, M. 2014) very warming and embracing, the feeling of appreciation was present within their tone of voice as well as their enthusiasm when delivering feedback. In a sense fulfilling and accepting the nature of needing, wanting and appreciating something that’s much more beautiful than its original physical existence, there was defiantly a disregard to the artificial surroundings the item had been placed in, or the careful consideration put into accelerating and developing the aesthetic of the item through studio-lighting techniques. The small group really picked up on the transformation that their items/objects made in the process of the response piece, ‘The items/objects look rubbish in reality after seeing the postcard images that you have taken’ (Needham, M. 2014). The sense transforming something average that someone cherishes into something that is beautiful and luxurious for them to appreciate and embrace has clearly worked in this instance, the idea of giving someone something that reality can not provide them with is evident here from the response of the small group through the postcard experiment, ‘I like my own the best, I think it’s the best image from the whole set as it seems the prettiest, it makes my pin cushion look even better than what it actual is as, I didn’t realize how detailed the texture of the material actual was until now’ (McBennett, E. 2014).
It was interesting to hear Joanna’s feedback she is the only one that outlined and stated that she preferred everybody else’s images to her own, ‘I like others better than my own as I know that the objects mean something to that person’ (Buttercase, J. 2014). Although this statement outlines her preference of image is not her own ‘beautiful transformed’ object it more importantly identifies the appreciation and emotional connection that each person had to each item, the understanding of why that individual cherishes that certain item is comprehended by each member of the group. There is bond between the group that has been made purely through the imagery that I have produced and delivered using a everybody average object, transforming it and delivering it back to the small group in a way that helps to bring the group together through a mutual bond, essentially through the power and tools of studio lighting techniques and digital manipulation.
Idea of Hyper reality
With reference back to chapter two it is evident through audience feedback that the idea of hyperreality has been found evident in my study. Hyperreality is essentially the idea that everything is a copy or imagined/idolized replica of something else (as discussed in the early parts of chapter two), expanding on the idea that original in this case the item/object is no longer worthy after the authentic copy of it has been produced. In this instance the authentic copy is the postcard images that have been produced, and the original being the physical object that was given by each participant. One of the participants stated that ‘The object looks rubbish after seeing the postcard images’ (Needham, M. 2014), which in essence supports the idea of hyperreality in my study. The fact that this participants feels as though the item itself (fig. 16-in her case her ball of wool and crochet needle) looks better in the image than in real life after seeing the postcard image is supportive of the idea that hyperreality is existent within my audience. The authentic copy of the original is more valued, worthy and appreciated.
In a sense the idea of hyperreality also forms a relationship with the idea of consumer culture. The want and need for consumers to expect more the next time that they look for gratification from items/objects/products. Creating something that is more ‘beautiful’ and glamorous than the previous authentic copy. This idea of glamourizing something to make it look more beautiful than what it is has become apparent within my study and reflective through audience response to the creative piece. During the discussion/feedback session from my targeted audience one of the participants expressed that they preferred there own image as oppose to others, ‘I like my own the best, I think it’s the best image from the whole set as it seems the prettiest, it makes my pin cushion look even better than what it actual is as…’ (McBennett, E. 2014). Picking up on the middle parts of this quote ‘It seems the prettiest’ clearly supports the idea that consumer culture plays a role in giving people what they want, nobody wants to see a bad image or a bad replica of a image they want to see something that is better than what they have in reality, with conscious awareness that this image has been artificially built up to satisfy that desire. Through the study itself it has become evident that there is a relationship between hyperreality and consumer culture which in chapter one and two they were two separate ideas that stood alone, receiving audience feedback through the practical piece has solidified and developed my understanding that these two ideas/elements work hand in hand and are supportive of the idea that studio lighting techniques and digital photo manipulation essentially gives people what they want as oppose to manipulating people.
The use of stock imagery used to deliver my concept/idea was a interesting avenue to follow through with. The audience knew that this type of photography was cold and commercial; they knew that I would be shooting in an artificial environment. There was conscious awareness that the shadows had been carefully constructed through lighting and that their items had been composed within the frame at their best angle, yet it was interesting that this particular type of photography still triggered an emotional response from the audience. This supports the research subject that If something is constructed to be seen in a more beautiful light it is fairly insignificant of the context it is put in, people still like to see something that exceeds reality, something that will satisfying there gratification and in essence something that will give them emotional satisfaction.