The Artefact: iBook

Americanisms Lee Hassall

Above is the artefact I have created for my project on Americanisms. I have chosen to use the app iBook author to create an eBook, which has many advantages to me being an unestablished photographer. It is easier and free to promote my work as it is an app that is easily accessed. Being a relatively new tool that is available to most people it begins to raise questions about the need for a professional in terms of an author, this is an issue I will address later but first I would like to discuss why an ebook is appropriate for my audience.

This eBook will be available in the iBook store for free, so anyone with access to that store will be able to download it to their devices. As an unestablished photographer  and little interest at the moment in this work I doubt people will be willing to part with money for it and are more likely to download it out of curiosity. Perhaps after being told about it by being shared via a social networking site. It is not restricted to people that only have access to the iBook store as it will exist online as a PDF, although the viewing of the book will change in this format. The images will still be structured in the same sequence but the PDF file wont be as interactive as the iBook file, which is a convention of eBooks that we are becoming more and more used to.

I have not just chosen this format because it is simply easier for me to promote my work in this way (although that is a contributing factor) I find it to be a very appropriate medium for my chosen audience (the 16 year old mentioned in a previous post ‘Considering Audiences’). It is accessible to this audience as they are digital natives, they already have the knowledge an ability to be able to download an view my work. This does not iscolate everyone that is not a digital native, but I am aware that not all digital settlers have learnt the necessary skills to view my work. If I were to find this to be an issue and wanted to open up the viewing of this work to a maturer audience then I would consider other forms of presenting, for example creating a physical book or attempting to display my work in public spaces. The eBook is something that can be easily shared on the internet and not only does this sharing allow free advertising for the artefact it creates an online presence for myself. But even though there are some great advantages for my work to be easily accessed, shared and promoted online there is an uncertainty to what will happen with the work.

As I mentioned in the post I made about appropriation, once the photograph or body of work is uploaded onto the internet it gains a certain level of vulnerability, meaning it can be taken from its context (this one being my eBook) and interpreted in any number of ways. Not only does work become more accessible by existing online, plagiarism becomes more accessible as well. Plagiarism can still be done with the physical object, as demonstrated in Melinda Gibsons work, but a digital replica that is possible to download makes it so much easier to achieve.

Going back to the issue that this app iBook author raises of the need for professionals I found a quote from the book ‘Here Comes Everyone’ by Clay Shirky that sums up the concerns that could be associated this new tool.

“Our social tools remove older obstacles to public expression, and thus remove the bottlenecks that characterized mass media. The result is the mass amateurization of efforts pre­viously reserved for media profossionals.” 

With it becoming easier to publish your own work is there becoming less of a need for a professional author, just as there is less of a need for a professional journalist and photographer as mentioned in Clay Shirky’s book? iBook author is not the first and I am sure it wont be the last way for people to get there work published, magcloud for instance goes a step further in being able to print the artefact on demand. Although there is still a scarcity in the book world that requires professionals, such as getting books printed on mass and distributed, but if there is a decrease in these means and an increase in online publications then there is a possibility that the profession of a publisher, printer and author may ceased to exist one day.

After considering my audience and whether my artefact is the most appropriate format, as well as the implications it has in the digital era, I feel my decision to produce an eBook is valid.

Photographs of Americanisms

After receiving feedback on my previous images and looking at the work of Steven Shore I started photographing. I think I was successful in achieving what I wanted to capture for this project. The images display subjects that have American origins (some photographs include more than others) and it is left up to the viewer to discover them for themselves and interpret them in their own way.

Obviously without any explanation to these photographs the viewer can only understand so much, so when I create my eBook (as mentioned in previous post) I feel I need to give an introduction. I will give a brief summary of the body of work so that they know what subject matter to be searching for, so that hopefully they will go away from viewing these images with a new insight into the American culture in the UK. Hans Georg Gadamer proposed the concept that we use ‘horizons’ to conceptualise understanding. The horizon is the limit to which you can understand, both the artist and viewer have a horizon. So when the audience views the work there is a fusion of the artists and viewers horizons, meaning that they take away a new understandings.

My intentions with the eBook, I am going to create, is to supply the audience with enough information of Americanisms within our own culture so that they go away from the experience with a new understanding of the topic.

Steven Shore

After receiving the feedback on my previous images I decided to take a new approach in my photographic style and open up the frame, allowing the audience to discover the Americanisms in the landscape for themselves. Photographing landscapes from a distance is not what I usually do, so I decided to look at photographers that do photograph these subjects, hoping that I will understand how to do it successfully. In order to avoid producing photographs that look like snapshot images, where the subjects in the frame look misplaced and unconsidered.

That is why I have been looking at the body of work “Uncommon Places” by Stephen Shore. The style of Shore’s images in this body of work look incredibly ordered and there is this great awareness when viewing them that every single aspect of the composition has been considered, meaning everything in the frame has a fundamental role and importance to play within the photograph.

This is a style that Shore has developed over years of practice so obviously I do not aim to produce an imitation of his work, but I will definitely use his work to inform my own.

Considering Audiences

Whilst working on this project about Americanisms in the UK I have been considering who would be the appropriate audience to receive the message I am trying to communicate with this body of work. I believe that my work would be more relate-able to a younger audience and have a bigger impact on them as it touches upon issues that directly affect them. A younger person may not be as aware of the consumer lifestyle they buy into as well as a maturer audience because they have not experienced anything different. I myself have not experienced anything differently so am able to relate to the audience I am targeting, and if I believe this is a topic worth raising then I am sure there are other people of my age that think so as well.

David a 16 year old student from Huddersfield who spends his spare time playing video games and watching television online, is the profile of the typical person I am aiming this project towards. The way in which I choose to present my project has to be in a format that David will easily find. I doubt he will go out of his way to view an exhibition or search for an art book in the library, as there is nothing in his description to suggest his character has an interest in viewing galleries or to read in his spare time. So I have to create an artefact that will find him.

I began to think of how information or news would usually reach a 16 year old and realised the most obvious way would be via social networking sites, as they would class as digital natives. A digital native being “individuals who have grown up immersed in technology, generally born after 1985.” just one definition of many that generally sum up that they are computer literate due to not knowing anything outside the digital era we now live in.

I do not know what would be more effective in reaching this audience through social networking sites, whether it would be through advertisements or wall posts and tweets left by friends. I found from the link below that very few people click on advertisements via Facebook. I think that it would be most effective trying to reach this audience by creating an artefact that can be shared via social networking sites. This has led me to the decision of creating an eBook.

An eBook makes sense as it is something that can be easily viewed, shared and found by digital natives.

http://www.quora.com/How-many-people-actually-click-Facebook-ads

Americanisms

To further this assignment I took my 35mm film camera to the streets of Birmingham, to capture any American traits that stood out to me. I used a film camera for these images as I think my eye is not as well trained with a digital camera and I appear to not be as conscious of the composition, as can be seen in the initial photographs for assignment 1.  When photographing these Americanisms I intended on restricting the viewer to focus on the individual brands that have originated from the states, in order to create an awareness.

I thought that by including only the one brand in the frame this would cause the viewer to pay more attention to them. At the end of the series I considered creating a grid of all the images (as seen in the last image of the series above) in order to create more of an impact than the individual brand would in each image.

After receiving feedback on these images I was told that the images that did not directly reference a brand were more interesting, and caused the audience to pay more attention to the subjects within the frame. By expanding the frame and not restricting the viewer to one subject I would allow them to explore the location and discover the Americanisms for themselves, which may be more satisfying for them and create a bigger impact than me directly feeding them the message.

Composites

Composite – Combing visual elements from several images to create the illusion of one image.

The image above has been created by Idris Khan by taking images from the Becher’s. The piece raises questions similar to the appropriation task (earlier post) about the rights to take others work to create your own. But what Khan has done with this image is to take something and transform it. The physical appearance of the Becher’s images is not the only thing to have been transformed, the very purpose of the body of work has changed. The Becher’s made typologies to create an awareness of these objects, choosing to photograph from an objective view. Whereas Khan has created this abstract visual where the focus is then drawn upon the form and lines of the subject.

Below is my attempt at a composite image. I selected several images of landscapes with a similar straight horizons that intersected along the centre of the image. The brief whilst shooting in France for these images was on history and memory. I see the individual image taken of a location to be the history of the place, once the camera has captured it then it is in the past and is an exact document of its history. A memory of a place is more abstract, it is not always accurate and can be confused with several memories. So for this composite I decided to take the individual photo (the history of a place) and combine it with several other individuals, to create an abstract memory of a place. The combination of these locations has edited the reality and so I have taken the history of each place and combined them to represent the muddled abstract and dreamlike quality of a memory.

Tim Davis

I have recently been looking at the work of Tim Davis, as research for my current project on American consumerism. More specifically I have looked at the body of work titled “Retail”. The images below have been selected from this body of work.

 

Davis photographed retail establishments that have been reflected through the windows of suburban American houses. I thought this body of work was relevant to my current project as it shows how consumerism is currently being imposed upon families within these small towns in America.

So far with this project I have already picked up on the fact that we are partially blind to what we are consuming when it comes to the products that we buy into, as we do not even take notice of the fact that they are American brands. So I can relate to Davis’s observations through this body of work that our lives are being subliminally imposed upon by these retailers.

At this point in my project I have only photographed our ignorance towards the presence of these American brands. But after looking at Tim Davis work I feel that I should look into how consumerism is directly impacting our lives. I am not sure as to how to go about doing this at the moment but I think this is where my project should lead to next.

“Stars and Stripes in our eyes”

This article titled “Starts and Stripes in our eyes: What’s so special about the America way?” has led me to realise that our culture is not only unaware of the consumer items America has brought to this country, but there are many other ways in which America has influenced us without us realising.

We seem to have this need for approval from America. Take the movie “The King’s Speech”, according to this article it is a great triumph for this British film to win an oscar because it means we have gained recognition from America. Also there’s the need for British singers to try and tackle America in order to further there career to be seen as more successful such as Adele and Amy Winehouse. The article below supports this idea as it celebrates the fact that Leona Lewis was the first female singer to top the charts in America for more than 20 years.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment

It seems now even more hypocritical of our culture to think negatively of America when it is obvious that our live’s are not only influenced by American consumerism but we also view America as being this elite platform for success.

I feel that with this project I am working on it is my job to create this awareness of American Culture within our lives so that people are more informed when creating opinions of America.

Initial Images for Assignment 1

Our society is filled with American iconography that has become so normal that we no longer acknowledge them. We have accepted and allowed American brands to integrate with own cultural brands yet the research from my presentation for assignment 2 suggests that the majority of our nation view Americans negatively. There seems to be a contradiction between our opinions and our lifestyle that we are not even aware of.

One of the images below is of my sister stood next to her bed, with all of her American branded products laid next to her. Before I gathered all of these items together I asked her what American brands she owns, in which she responded “I don’t own any?”.

This made me realise just how unaware some people are of the American culture and how it has impacted our own. For the other images below I have photographed American symbols (brands) with people visible in the same frame, but clearly not taking notice of them, which represents our blindness towards American consumerism. It shows the power these brands have in our society and how they have successfully avoided that negative association the majority of Britons have towards America.

What I noticed whilst taking these photographs was that even though the logos were not completely visible or clear they were still recognisable and easy to identify. This only confirmed to me the massive impact they have had on our culture. I could have angled the shot differently or re-arranged the subjects in the photographs so that the logos were clearer but I want the audience to realise that these products are so prominent in our lives that we do not even have to see the whole logo to be able to identify them.