Image Is Everything?

By: Douglas Reyes

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Rihanna for Balmain, S/S 14

In today’s society image is everything. Image is a perception of  people as a whole; it not only represents who we are, but also encourages who we’ll undoubtedly become. Both visual and perceptual imagery allows us to make meaning of the world around us, and “everyday, we are in the practice of looking to make…” [1] sense of this, “through looking we negotiate social relationships and meanings” [2]; as depicted in Practices of Looking. For instance imagery has the power to convey so many feelings and emotions, it has “the power to calm or incite to action… to persuade or mystify” [3]; Imagery sets out to deconstruct our thoughts and beliefs, and reconstruct them in a way that serves their purpose. It makes us think, imagine the possibilities, inspire creativity within our senses “a single image can serve a multitude of purposes, appear in a range of settings, and mean different things to different people” [4] images help us make our own representation of what is being portrayed.

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Lady GaGa for Versace, S/S 14

Imagery and representation go hand in hand. Imagery helps us make meaning of the world around us; representation “refers to the use of language and images to create meaning about the world around…” [5]; this in turn helps us create assumptions of said imagery, through the representation of others. In fact the world as we see it today is not of our own representation, but the vision of others, as presented to us in this quote:

… we only make meaning of the world through specific cultural context. This takes place in part through the language systems (be they writing, speech, or images) that we use. Hence, the material world only has meaning, and only can be “seen” by us, through these systems of representation. This means that the world is not simply reflected back to us through systems of representation, but that we actually construct the meaning of the material world through these systems. [6]

Stating that said forces influence our intellect and beliefs, and that we only mimic what we see and hear, but isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Didn’t the people we grew up with influence our entire belief system, and our “image”? Didn’t our teachers influence what we know today from what we learned in school? Through pedagogy being “the science, art, profession of teaching” [7] we acquired said notions of influence and representation, whether it be through our parents, siblings, teachers or other influences in our lives, we are all representations of those said forces! So in fact we are a society of copycats and posers, who have no sense of individuality! We are all different per say, but more a like then we dare to admit!

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Hermes Matte Alligator Graphite Birkin, ca. 2013 [Q]

 As a people we are driven by consumption, consumerism not only encourages this, but also influences the indulgence of excess; living beyond our means to keep up with the demands set forth by the media, advertising, but most importantly the higher-ups in the fashion industry. These “connoisseurs [are] considered to be an authority on beauty and aesthetics, who [are] more capable than [you] to pass judgment on the quality of cultural objects.” [8] In this sense, being advertisement, and high fashion editorials. Fashion insiders make life-leading decisions into the next highest trend of the season, in terms “that is, they are able, regardless of their own class position, to rank images and objects according to a system of taste steeped in class-based values.” [9]

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Christian Louboutin, Python Pigalle, S/S 14

That new must have “it” bag, that’ll bring status symbol into our lives, that tweed jacket that screams stature, poise, and luxury, and/or that hot new shoe that screams I’m better than you! In a world where flaunting you’re wealth is all the rage, image is EVERYTHING! But this notion also puts you on the forefront of one of the biggest misconceptions of our reality… wealth, status, and image are not all it’s cracked up to be! In a world where spectacle is all the rage, putting up a front is what most people have in reality, and it’s pretty sad. Through hegemony being “the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group.” [10] We are forced to fall within structured guidelines and accept the ideals of people with influence, whether it is through media, high fashion, or advertisement.

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Fashion Editorial, S/S 14

Pop culture in relation to representation, and imagery is composed of perspectives, ideas, and attitudes, consisting with the times. Through appropriation these ideals take charge, and compose the mainstream of any given society/culture. These strategies (perspectives, ideas, attitudes, etc…) are used within pop culture to “[borrow], and [change] or [reconfigure] images, [ideas, etc…] [that] have proliferated in contemporary image-making, [ideas, etc…] processes.” [11] This indeed identifies the representation of the culture interpretation of pop culture where the “remaking of style through appropriation of historical objects and images can be a… statement about class and cultural identity.” [12] As we age pop culture changes, what is “hot” today won’t be as “hot” ten years from now, in this sense, “… culture industries are constantly establishing [and, changing] what is new [with] style…” [13]; in an effort to keep up with the times, but also the demands of the new generation, through the influence of the media, advertising, and fashion industry.

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Alexander Wang, S/S 14

Sexism and the “gaze” within the representation of the female nude are one in the same. The “gaze” encourages the objectification of women as mere tangible property; “men survey women before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a man can determine how she will be treated.” [14] This in turn makes women the “object” of desire, referring to them as simple property. The “gaze” is one of the main culprits in both the sexist, and misogynistic ideals of our society, “She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life.” [15]; this in fact encourages the objectification of women; by making them succumb and appeal to the demand and standards of her male counterpart. This is also driven by the over sexualization of society through the use of crude, sex driven advertising within pop culture. This in turn has a negative effect on the quality, and representation of the female gender, and encourages the devaluation of women, which in fact is turning them into sexually driven beings with no values and/or morals. Makes women “[submit] to the owner’s feeling or demands”! [16]

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Dolce & Gabbana, S/S 14

In conclusion, imagery and all that entails with the notions of present day norms, influences our every thought and being. Imagery is one of the biggest influences in modern-day life. It not only depicts our sense of style, but also encourages our taste in music, and fashion. Without imagery some of us have no sense of purpose. Visualization helps in the construction of fantasies, and desires, which drives us to make something of ourselves. Not everyone is fond of written word, especially those who have no patience in creating their own imagination, but desire to live vicariously through the imagery, and vision of others. This to say that not all imagery has a negative effect, some help us construct those visions that are missing in our lives, but with the same token not all imagery is good either. Indulge at your own risk!

Notice

Images link to their website. All imagery is copyright of their respective owner. I do not own or am affiliated with these companies, and do not condone the use, or distribution of these images. Use is solely restricted to informative and educational purposes.

Works Cited

1. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 10

2. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 10

3. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 10

4. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 10

5. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 12

6. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 12-13

7. “Pedagogy.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com (17 Feb.             2014)

8. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 49

9. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 49

10. “Hegemony.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com (17 Feb. 2014)

11. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 60

12. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 65

13. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 65

14. Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Viking, 1973: 46

15. Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Viking, 1973: 46

16. Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Viking, 1973: 52

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