A rough, rough draft.

7 Nov

I have been trying to figure out how to use this blog effectively. Do I just post photos that I am working on? Do I simply upload every photographic image that I take, even those snaps taken with my iPhone or webcam? How much should I “talk” about my projects?

My ideas are still inside my head. Hmmm.

Maybe I should kick off the photoblogging by introducing my latest rough, rough draft for a proposed photo set.

Directly from my notes:

This project will combine photographic fine arts with recent psychology research studying the perceptions of color, and will concern itself with one color: Red.

The Connection:
To understand the subjective versus objective relationship of my project, one must first understand the relationship of psychology and photography. Since it’s inception, photography has been a means of portraying a scene. Although developed for scientific implications, such as Eadweard Maybridge’s study of animals in motion (1883-1887)[1] or Anna Atkins’ cyanotypes of algae (1843), as photography popularized and the photographic technique revised, artistic involvement increased. Soon “moments,” essence and aura were visibly documented. It did not take long for psychologists to begin to question whether or not photography could influence psychology. For example, Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond believed that a photograph could aid in diagnosing mental illness (eg Seated Woman with Bird, 1855). Today, photography and psychology continue to overlap. In culture context, photography has found a home within the school of Social Psychology. Psychologist and photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley photographically examined modern ethnocentricity in America by creating images that “allow a common human denominator” among a variety of cultures (2009). These images address a current hot-button debate discussing what it is to be American in the United States, where tensions are currently running high concerning illegal immigration and the notion that “I shouldn’t have to ‘press 1’ for English.” Anderson-Staley’s images concede the idea to look past race and cultural stereotypes in an attempt to find commonality. 

Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond
Keliy Anderson-Staley

The Color:
Iconic fashion designer Valentino Garavani described red as being dramatic and strong (i). It is also commonly described as arrogant, an appetite stimulant or as an aphrodisiac. The truth seems to be that the red is arguably the most multifaceted color, being used to symbolize extreme opposites, such as love and war or health and death.

Aesthetically, the color red speaks volumes. Visually, red has the longest wavelength and shortest frequency, resulting in instant stimulation of the eye (Berlin & Kay, 1969). Being a fundamental primary color and when blended with another primary, red is the parent to a wealth of related colors. Therefore, the harnessing of the color red in an artistic nature leads to an infinite number of creative possibilities.

The influence the color red has on perceptions is not a secret. For example, examining William Ramsay’s 1875 article Triumphus, it is understood that Romans would paint their bodies red to symbolize victory and achievement. Recently, psychologists have begun to study the perceptions of individuals when presented with the color red as the main focus (eg objects, clothing, tasks involving). For example, studies show a positive correlation between patients presented with pure red light and increased heart rate, respiration and blood pressure (Meola, 2005). Men find women who wear red more attractive (Elliot & Niesta, 2008). Similarly, red has also been observed to elicit avoidance responses in humans (Elliot,et al, 2009).

The Project:
It is my intent to create a photographic set that conveys the multiple “personalities” of red, such as sex, anger, or joy. However, the trait will not be determined by myself. I will interview eight to ten people, asking for their thoughts on the color red. I will then create two images. The first image will be a monochromatically red portrait of the person. The purpose of the portrait is to represent the person’s candid vulnerability when faced with the question “What do you think of when you see the color red?” This image will be created using depictive involvement. The second will be representational of their response. Red will play the key color throughout the image (for example, if the participant says “red is to stop,” then the second image could be of a stop sign against a green field or a blue sky (though my purpose is not to be as banal or generic as a stop sign!)). The purpose of the second photo is to visually create what the mind sees when confronted with the same question as the first. The second photo will be a combination of representational- and assisted-reality artistic involvement. I will present these images side-by-side, in a diptych form. The diptych will formulate a narrative that pits the objectivity of the first photograph against the subjectivity of the second photograph.

A friend once told me that there are only two types of honest answers in this world: those by drunks and those by children. Seeing as I am not a bar-hopper, I will enjoy the frank opinions of eight to ten different children, ranging in ages three to ten years. I will ask the basic question “What does ‘red’ mean?” If the child seems confused or needs elaboration, I will adjust my question accordingly. Also, because younger children tend to associate color with objects (such as “red means ball.”), I will try to get the child to continue their thought to gain further understanding (if red means ball, does that mean that red means to play with the ball?).

My purpose is to create two images, with the intent to combine photography and psychology by creating images that portray the color red as defined by the portrait and created in by the interpretation of the portrait. The color red elicits many responses, assuring variety throughout the narrative.

Anderson-Staley, Keliy. Off the Grid and -americans: Contemporary Collodion Portraits. 2009.  
       Photograph. California Museum of Photography.
Atkins, A. (1843). Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Self-Published.
Berlin, B. & Kay, P. (1969) Basic color terms: Their universality and evolution. University of
      California Press.
Diamond, Hugh W. Seated Woman with Bird. 1855. Photograph.
Elliot, A. & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic red: Red enhances men’s attractions to women. Journal
      of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1150-1164.
Elliot, A., Maier, M.A., Binser, M.J., Friendman, R., & Pekrun, R. (2009). The effect of red on
      avoidance behavior in achievement contexts. Personality and Psychology Bulletin, 35, 365-
Maybridge, E. (1957). Animals in Motion. NY: Dover Publications.
Meola, K.V. (2005). Psychology of color. Journal of Academic Writing, 3.
Ramsay, W. (1875). Triumphus. Retrieved October 23rd, 2010 from http://penelope.uchicago.edu.
Hoylen, J. “Valentino Leaves His Fans Still Seeing Red | Live in Full Color.” Color Advice and Insights from the Experts – Sensational Color. 29 Jan. 2008. Web. 24 Oct. 2010.

[1] Maybridge’s images were not published until 1957, by Dover Publications. 

I shall elaborate more as the draft advances from rough, rough to simply just rough. 

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