Tag Archives: image

The Eye of the Beholder

25 Aug

Whether you love it or loathe it, social media is omnipresent and every day millions of people upload millions of photographs to their social media pages for the visual consumption of friends, family and complete strangers.  John Berger (1972: 2) states that ‘every image embodies a way of seeing’.  Images posted on social media reveal much about those who made them, particularly how they view the world around them.  Unfortunately social media, through the types of images displayed there, can be used to reinforce dysmorphic ideas about our bodies and problematic views on gender and gender “normativity”.  Recently, I have been thinking about the types of visual representations of men and women that communicate dysmorphic or problematic messages, and specifically how others see [interpret] these representations.  What does a self-made image of a man or woman posted on a social media site mean to others who view them?  And to what degree can they impact on the spectator?  Do such images hold meaning for the spectator, are they more than a fleeting visual curiosity or distraction?  If such images do hold meaning; what meaning exactly?  I know of course the simple answer to these questions is – it depends!  Depends on the image and depends on who the spectator is.  None-the-less, I find this an interesting line of inquiry.
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Seeing gender, doing gender: the visual culture-visual impairment dilemma

26 May
Source: Wiki media commons

Source: Wiki media commons

We live in visually hegemonic times. Everything about who we are and what we do is poured into an image. A look or a lifestyle is constructed and given a distinct yet recognizable aesthetic language and practice all its own. Gender ideals are heavily produced and circulated through visual imagery. Even though such images pull meaning from a variety of popular (forward thinking?) discourses, gender in the old fashioned sense persists: women are generally constructed as bodies and men constructed as minds, and so the story goes. The presence of women in mainstream visual culture as bodies to be scrutinized and desired has been disproportionate to men, but this is changing. By far the most visible account of masculinity is unemotional, self-determined, willfully independent and, above all, performance-driven. Sound familiar? In theory, the visual realm is a space where identity is more easily contestable and the either/or ties that bind categories of identification are rendered diminishable. Images allow us to challenge and re-imagine the universal logic associated with mainstream norms and beliefs in ways that pure text cannot. At the same time, they make it possible to disseminate this logic in a given form more widely. Mainstream media and culture do tend to favor a very limited view of many things, especially gender. And we, as an audience, tend to be easily persuaded by what we see, especially when it’s all around us. I’m not letting the cat out of the bag here, I realize, but what if visual culture is breathing new life into the age-old exemplars of masculinity?

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