This assignment was for us to investigate further into the theories of consumption within design and to apply this to practice.
Investigating and analysing a subject’s personal environment, possessions and family relationships with the use of photographs allowed us to attempt to find out about the person through their influences, interests and the people around them. Whether they are truly their own person or are subconsciously following ‘the Canon’ was the purpose of the investigation. Also applying our theories to actual evidence introduced us to the practical side of design studies.
I analysed about eight photographs of my subject (Sheonagh Gall) each varying in content such as different family members, different periods in time, various processions allowing me to process what each photograph told me about her.
Initial taking an educated guess as to who the ‘other’ people are in the photos and their relationship to the subject, then putting it together with the surrounding environment and possessions to create a story and understanding of what is happening in the photograph.
The evidence in the resources led me to certain conclusions about my subject’s (Sheonagh’s) influences and relationships. Many of her photos appear to be herself and her brother (or an older male relative; cousin); the fact that she has chosen these certain picture may in itself indicate her influence and relationship to him. In each photo she appears close and comfortable with her ‘brother’; either in an embrace or a friendly activity; a protective side to the brother is quite frequent in the photos indicated with an arm around the subject or positioning himself close to the same level as his sister. Demonstrating that their relationship is strong and that Sheonagh may look up to her brother as he is older and seems to take care of her. One photo of my subject and what seems to be her brother again shows a different side of their relationship but also reinforces the ‘older brother quality’ that shows his influence in his younger sister. It’s a more mischievous scene of the two of them peeking through a hole investigating something unknowing of the presence of a camera. He perhaps investigated first and Sheonagh followed lead, trusting and influenced by him; or perhaps he coxed her in convincing her to look first as she trusted him and looked up to him therefore wanting to impress him.
Another strong male influence appears in a few photos indicating how important this person is to my subject. Firstly appearing in a significant day of the subject’s life; her first day at school perhaps, the photo depicts a scene of an older male figure; father or grandfather, taking Sheonagh by the hand and leading her along a path. I based my analysis on the evidence present in the photo; she is dressed in a school uniform, very young, the male relative is looking down at her making sure that she is ok, perhaps apprehension of going into something new therefore leading me to the conclusion of her first day at school. She looks to him for support and possibly relies on him to lead her in the right direction.
In the other photograph another male figure is present showing a playful side of their relationship. A scene of them playing in the sand or the subject sitting on his knee imitating a pose taken by the male figure; her grandfather, indicates the ‘fun’ side of their relationship; it shows a stronger bond between them reinforcing their closeness. The ‘copy cat’ scene portrays her grandfather’s influence on Sheonagh, how she imitates him. Perhaps this impression still carries on in the present and many of her choices are influenced by him consciously or unconsciously. The beach scene also depicts a trusting side of their relationship as it appears he has buried her up to her neck in sand, there must be a huge element of trust in their relationship to allow him to go through with that task. Again it’s a very playful scene and shows how comfortable she is with him, place her trust in his hands – or rather spade!
Certain elements of this investigation were not as clear as others; favourite people perhaps showed through more than favourite colours. However basing my findings on the evidence I took an educated guess that in most of her photographs as a younger child she appears to wear pink a lot but at looking as she gets older that isn’t the case. As this is based on a guess, coincidence may play a big part in my conclusion so the following part of the assignment, where we meet up with our subject and discuss our finds, is imperative to understanding the task and understanding how people and markets are perceived whether initial research is coherent or irrelevant.
As we discussed our findings certain aspects of my conclusions were coherent with Sheonagh’s personal life. As I noticed indeed her grandfather was a strong figure as she grew up, he was the one who would always play with her, and she would go on holiday with her grandparents. In this case she realised that the picture maybe perceived her being closer to her granddad than her father. In the case of the beach scene where I found that there was a trusting relationship between herself and her granddad, Sheonagh confirmed this but didn’t realise that the pictures showed this much into their relationship. She also reinforced my idea that her brother and she were very close and cuddly as young children, that he was protective and looked out for her. However she elaborated and stated that as they grew older they grew apart but the bond was still there and he would always stay protective.
When my Sheonagh depicted what she found through my photographs I realised more about my mother. There was only one photo of her, this was not because she wasn’t around but rather she was always the one taking the photo, looking after us and organising us. She was very motherly and homely just as Shoenagh perceived. She recognised the closeness between me and my brother and sister especially my sister; from wearing the same clothes and playing together in most of the photos. Shoenagh suggested that our upbringing was very family orientated, she was right. Also many of my photographs were of things we had completed like snowmen or Lego buildings, Sheonagh’s view on this was that my parents were quite proud and wanted to show off our accomplishments, I realised this was true and still is today.
It was interesting to find out how other people perceived me through the memories we store in photographs. Little subtle things that I may have never noticed before are points that people may be able to pin point and look into to find out more about me, as did Sheonagh. Looking into my subjects personal life was hard at first, I perhaps felt apprehensive in case I touched on sensitive issues, but if you be considerate to your subject and deal with your research ethically then you can allow it to go further.
This assignment gave us a more practical take on investigating techniques allowing us to understand a bit more into the reality of research and resources. It’s not always a simple click of a mouse or a search in Google and all your questions are answered, primary research is the fundamental element of your opinions and your discipline; strong views need hard evidence to back it up.