Posted at 10.11.2018
Visual culture dominates the girl. Visual messages surround us and are multiply through our society. Images, whether photographs, paintings, videos or advertising logos have a power that wording cannot contend with: the power of instant identification. Our visible culture, when it comes to using images, has acquired such durability that it could be argued that this has overtaken the reading of an block of text message.
There is an evergrowing dread among educators and parents that children are rejecting literature in favour of the visual exhilaration of the web. Although it remains true that fiction, poetry, publication reporting and educational text messages can and do still shock, manipulate and influence the public creativity through the creative use of vocabulary, the visible image does all of this faster. It is visual shorthand and has certain features that words alone cannot compete with.
Firstly, an image has the ability to encapsulate weighty ideas, provoke issue, result in reactions and stimulate thought in an instant and its impact can be noticed as deeply. As Milton Glaser, the visual designer most widely known for his 'I Love New York' company logo, once said, "The goal of graphic design is to move visitors to action or to inform them. If part of that role is to create a benign cultural environment, a whole lot the better. " (Glaser, 2006, p72) Visual images can, broadly, reach associates of all ethnicities: it acts as a visible dialect that everyone can be apart of regardless of one's time, culture or literacy level e. g. everyone, globally, understands what the nodding of the head means. In multi-cultural Britain, where English is another language for many, it could be argued that the visual image is the main shared cultural arena. It unites our people in a way that no other medium can do. The aesthetic makes no demographic assumptions and allows everyone to own equal usage of important debates. In a world of visual culture we all have been equals. It is the most democratic inclusive aspect of our modern lives, which explains why these days, the oriental proverb, a picture is worth one thousand words, is truly appropriate.
In western society, it is merely to be expected that the great issues of the day will see themselves represented aesthetically. Pictures bring political changes, conflicts, environmental disasters and volcanic eruptions directly into our living spaces, sparking off conversation and argument about nationwide and international issues. It really is eye-catching that in countries under small status control such as North Korea, visible images are carefully monitored in order to limit the pass on of challenging ideas
that could undermine the grasp of its supreme leader, Kim Jong II.
Yet the aesthetic does not confine itself to world affairs. Contemporary home issues are similarly powerful. Here, images play as great a part in challenging modern beliefs, tests our prejudices, arousing sympathy and provoking us to articulate about our ideals. Our reactions can be astonishingly revealing and may lead us to question ourselves both as individuals so that a society. They can create change, encourage us to mature and even speed up our development.
Over the course of the past decade, many widely held shared notions and ideas have been revisited and reassessed in the visible arena. Near the top of the list are all aspects of our frame of mind towards the human body. Disability is one of these. In Sept 2005, the vacant plinth in Trafalgar Square was occupied by the white marble sculpture by Marc Quinn of disabled artist Alison Lapper while eight a few months pregnant. A victim of phocomelia, the hereditary condition which includes effects much like those induced by the drug Thalidomide, 'Alison Lapper pregnant' pays tribute to a female born without biceps and triceps and forshortened legs. Throughout her own life, Alison Lapper has been acutely alert to the struggles encompassing social popularity that disabled people face. When the sculpture first received agreement in 2004, the journalist Cahal Milmo, covering the story for 'The Independent', had written:
"Among the rare events when Alison Lapper was observed in public as a small girl, the reaction of the British open public was to carefully turn away and drag their children from where she and her friends were seated. Last night, some 35 years later, Ms. Lapper was contemplating her new status as the subject of a masterpiece of design that will leave her naked form to be gazed after by millions -fleetingly and lingeringly- in another of the most famous public spaces on earth. " (Milmo, 2004)
The public might take the visible sphere for granted, seeing "more types of graphical design before they reach work than they see examples of art work in a year. Before they may be even fully awake most people will see the amounts and letters on the faces of alarm clocks, the shades, styles and lettering on the pipes of toothpaste" (Barnard, 2005, p1) and therefore forget the important contribution it makes to interpersonal cohesion through the shared language. As Malcolm Barnard argues, our visual world seeks to decorate, inform, persuade and interpret the globe all around us. Furthermore, there can be an additional function which, he implies, cannot be overlooked: "the enchanting function" (Barnard, 2006, p15). Through pictures, we bring the remote control closer, shrinking space. "If this weren't true, then we would not keep pictures or photos of our family members in our wallets" (Barnard, 2006, p16) Furthermore, visual culture presents beauty and harmony into our daily lives. Both our personal and our social lives would be destitute without visible stimuli. We can not underestimate its value.
To explore and broaden these ideas, I plan to study the part visual culture has in the introduction of a mature, good and inclusive population. While these may appear to be extravagant claims, we have already accepted that there is more to a graphic than what appears on the surface. Images which have the power to inform and stimulate could also flush out fallacies, destroying opinions and phony perceptions that grip the public's imagination. Lizzi Miller's photograph (fig. 1) is a strong deterrent of negative perspectives of the natural feminine form: Chief among these is the idea of the desirability of physical perfection.
According to psychoanalyst and copy writer on feminist issues, Susie Orbach, state governments "enough studies have been completed demonstrating the harm done to all girls and women" enforcing the stereotype of the perfect shape after them and the injury "is currently enveloping young boys and men" (Orbach, 2010).
In a recently available piece printed in 'The Guardian' newspaper, she expresses the deep distress caused to millions of children, both male and feminine, who succumb to eating disorders because of this of what they see as pressure to conform to what is, in most cases, an unattainable size and shape. There is absolutely no question that Ms. Orbach makes an impact through the strength of her well-written and thoroughly researched argument on a) those who buy 'The Guardian', b) have enough time and interest to sit down and read her piece, c) are already intrigued by the topic. However, the same discussion was expressed by 'Glamour', the regular women's fashion magazine, within a visible image: that of Lizzi Miller, naked.
Lizzi Miller (fig. 1) was photographed for 'Glamour' in 2009 2009. She has the appearance of the average woman with a dress size 12 and is also 20 years old. Inside the picture, she sits casually, unclothed on the couch with her legs and arms comfortably crossed. She faces away from the camera and her beaming, natural smile suggests warmth and friendliness. The natural light is very smart and the audience can see every aspect of her body profile, even her tummy roll.
This model's intentionally unsophisticated natural beauty, visible thighs and abdomen reach a chord with a wide cross-section of typical women: mothers, job women, those in long-term associations and the ones whose physical form does not comply to the identified ideal. Her communal status is retained deliberately vague; she could be anyone and this anonymity is paramount to her appeal and effectiveness as a visible image.
The power of this portrait is based on the way so it places 'imperfection' in the spotlight -a rebellious idea in itself- and then moves even further by associating this with pleasure, thereby merging both ideas. The model shows up self-confident: just how she sits, her present, crossed legs revealing her thighs intentionally emphasized by the camera angle. In the same way, her facial expression reveals that she is obviously unconcerned concerning this, not in any sense frustrated by her physical shape. The image insists that she is more comfortable with her body and even with her belly spin. It demonstrates her approval of her looks and conveys the subject matter powerfully and persuasively to a lady audience that it's ok not to be perfect and that there is more to being attractive than conforming to a dress size 8. Compellingly, Lizzi Miller promotes a wholesome figure to the common woman in the street.
This strong aesthetic image of a lovely and contented girl who is pleased with her appearance rather than restless to conceal it, makes a significant contribution to the current controversy on body size in the western world, reaching a wide cross-section of the public whose ethnicity, literacy levels and social class are totally irrelevant. This sort of image wouldn't normally appear in an elite mag such as 'Vogue'. Its affluent readers buy it for the pleasure of seeing beauty in its efficiency; a dream world. In fig. 2, taken from 'Vogue Italia' the model, who plainly conforms to artificial notions of feminine beauty and body size, is participating in a component. The pose she attacks is deliberate and staged. Her gaze is detached and her look absent. It is an artificial development of a female exterior at odds with Lizzi Miller's natural personality which is favorably encouraged to shine through. Interestingly, despite attractive to women of higher social/literacy position, 'Vogue' leaves notions of body size and imperfection unchallenged and preserves the dubious position quo. Skinny is still promoted as more attractive, although it is widely held responsible by experts for the body dysmorphia outbreak, depression, self-harm and suicide. 'Glamour' pushes and strains against it with a thought-provoking image that stimulates debate to the extent that 'Vogue' commences to appear like clean entertainment or abstract skill - amusing, delighting, sensational but not real.
Through a single snapshot, 'Glamour' flushes out into the open the entire complex question on body image and brings it to a mind. Lizzi Miller's image undermines the fallacy that super-thin is beautiful and pushes the audience to question its validity. This picture shakes the foundations of an idea that has gripped the feminine imagination for many years and forces part of computer to crumble. If she is beautiful and happy in her body, it appears to ask, why can't I be?
This challenge to your cultural identification, with men and women,
arises as a direct result of the aesthetic image, demonstrating its persuasive vitality. No government information, no learned subconscious research, no adolescent studies are participating, just one single picture captures everything. Through visual announcements like this, our society goes one step closer to tolerance, approval of diversity and in the end to its own maturity. It is images like these that could 1 day render United States 'Vogue' editor Anna Wintour's comment "every girl needs to be thinner" (Edwards, 2009), obsolete.
Just as ethnic identities are shaped and challenged by visual stimuli, so too are beliefs of equality and communal status. This idea is revealed through subtle recommendations like the addition of the lone dark model who shows up in Dolce and Gabbana's spring and coil/summer collection 2009 plan by Mario Testino. (fig. 3). It really is all too easy to skip the significance of this image in the general liveliness of color, sparkle and expensive environment. However, on closer evaluation, the audience discovers that black feminine is exclusively among six white models; she actually is the peculiar one out, quite literally the odd number. In addition to this, while all the other glare directly into the zoom lens in a happy, confrontational style, the solo black model glances sideways and downwards, her gaze resting on something beyond the body, the eyes uncertain, her look insecure.
Whereas a few of the white young girls have their hands located confidently on their hips, others disclosing a whole leg, arm or shoulders, her limbs are partially concealed, her flowing skirt blocked by the twirling hem of the one in front. Surely, Testino is commenting on position, requesting several questions through the model's own restless pose: What's she doing here? Will she belong? Will she have the right to be here?
Yet again we see confirmation of the influential electric power of visual ethnical messages to drive difficult and unpleasant ideas into the available for review, concern and talk. What may begin as a numerical imbalance -the dark-colored feminine occupying one seventh of the image- expands outwards into ethnic rethinking. Based on the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this is "because witnessing is central to our understandings of ethnical difference. " (What is Aesthetic Culture?, 2010) Far from being a superficial advertisement for dresses, Testino invites us to recognise her isolation from the other women, the racial imbalance of the shot and the underrepresentation of models from cultural minorities in high-status fashion photography. He draws our focus on the actual fact that while we might support the idea of social inclusiveness, the reality is till a long way off.
Black and other minority ethnic groups are still underused in high position regions of modern life. The brilliance of Testino's shot is these huge text messages are communicated to us while purporting lovely girls in sparkly dresses. Aesthetic culture is more that it appears on the top: it challenges, it pushes boundaries, it questions founded perceptions and in the end, if successful, gets the strength to bring about change. A well-chosen image may even accelerate a big change in social behaviour that can truly liberate us from worn out thinking and move us on as a contemporary society from ideas that have trapped us for centuries and narrowed our understanding of the world.