WHAT IMAGES MEAN ...
For this assignment we were to work in groups, so I got together with Lindsay McQuarrie who is also studying Textiles Design. Megan McGinley my partner from the first assignment and Patricia Lip, Lindsay's partner from assignment one.
For the first part of this assignment we were to read The Rhetoric of the Image by Roland Barthes. This took me a while to do as I found it quite hard to understand what was being said in the chapter. Once having read it over a few times and after discussing it within my group something finally clicked. In the chapter Barthes talks about polysemy which is simply the idea that images have more than one meaning and once that meaning is understood it leads to lots of other hidden meanings. He also talks about the idea that the meaning of an image can be fixed just by adding text. Therefore the meaning is no longer open to interpretation. This is what we will be trying to find out as a group in just a few experiments set in this assignment.
The next part of this assignment was for us to pick three random photos. These images were used in a simple experiment where we asked people to create a story linking them. The images could be used in any order in which the person wanted and the story only had to be a few lines long. We got each of the people we asked to write down their stories for us so we could compare them all later.
Here are the photos we used;
From these photos we got a variety of different stories, but there were also a few that were quite similar. Here's some examples of the kind of things we got;
- Someone has won first prize in a cooking competition at the local village fayre. It has all different kinds of events such as clay pigeon shooting.
- A man lives on a farm with his wife. He enters a pie eating competition and wins first prize. To celebrate he rounds up his friends and goes hunting in the forest.
- A man lives in a small village. He enjoys hunting and has recently killed a pheasant. He makes pheasant pie and enters it into the local cooking competition. He wins first prize.
- There was once a young man, who had inherited a lovely little farm in the Yorkshire dales. He was both a keen Hunter, Farmer and Cook, So one day he went out hunting with his son. They managed to catch two pheasants which he then cooked along with vegetables he had grown at his farm. The dish he created was so amazing that he entered it into the local village competition and won.
As you can see the stories shown above are all quite similar. These were the inspiration for the second part of the assignment. In this part we had to choose one of the most popular stories to act as a "target" story, which is shown below;
"Someone visits a local village fayre. There is a few different events such as shooting, cooking and pie eating competitions. They enter a competition and win first prize."
In the third part of this assignment we used this "target" story as a part of another experiment in which we asked different people from the first experiment to again create a story with the images given to them. This time we also added another photo to our three originals, but it wasn't to be a random image, we were to choose this one.
Basically this part of the assignment was to see, if by choosing a photo that links the other photos together, we could influence what people's stories would be. So the aim of this experiment was to get as many people as possible to guess the "target" story without giving them any hints or tips. This was the fourth photo which we added;
There was a few unusual responses to this experiment but there was also some successful stories too. I found that most of the stories were along the right lines but the people we asked had added more detail into their story than we had in the "target" one. Here are a few of the best examples;
- A man/farmer who lived in a remote highland crofting community went out shooting one day. He shot a pheasant for a pie he was going to make. He made his pie which won first place in the cooking competition at the local highland show.
- There was a small fayre in a nearby village which was hosting clay pigeon shooting and a best pie contest. A woman entered the pie contest and won a prize.
- One day a young boy and his dad took part in a shooting competition at a village fayre in the Yorkshire Dales. The boy won 1st place in a pie eating competition and was rewarded with a prize ribbon.
- A family attended a village fayre where there was activities like shooting, pie eating contest, cooking competitions, etc.
As I said before the stories shown above were our most successful responses to this part of the assignment. We also had other responses that were totally random and weren't linked to the "target" story in any way.
Overall I found this assignment interesting as I got to see how people interpret images in different ways and how different the first responses were to the ones when we added another photo or single word. This all comes back to the idea of polysemy and that our experiment agreed with Barthes. By doing these experiments it has definitely improved my understanding of polysemy. I think I'll now be looking more closely at images and at how and why people have added text to restrict images to a single meaning rather than leaving them open to interpretation.