Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The power of pictures (WARNING: Male and female gender debate)

Photography influences the perceived power of man and women.

Very basic point, this. But quite interesting.

Any photographer knows that taking an image of someone from a low level – looking up at them – increases the perception of strength.

Shoot from a higher vantage point above and you get the opposite effect. It’s a basic photography principle.

Or, to put it another way, the low viewpoint makes them look more powerful.

Researchers from several European universities led by the Rotterdam School of Management* found that more men were shot from a low viewpoint than women 

This, the researchers argue, leads to a reinforcing of male and female stereotypes.

Paraphrasing here, it implies that:

Assuming that this results in more photographs of women shot from above being used in advertisements, magazines and newspapers, the media might unintentionally increase our perception that men are powerful and women are not. This strengthens our stereotyped ideas that women cannot become leaders, as our attitudes towards, and judgment about, other people are strongly influenced by the way they are portrayed in the media.

Researchers go on to state that, gender aside, powerful individuals are more likely to be portrayed from below while the powerless get a higher viewpoint. This finding is rather predictable and not that interesting.

Media images were analysed from the collection of CORBIS®, Time Magazine, and World Press Pictures.

*Those researchers and universities in full: Dr Steffen R. Giessner, Associate Professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), and his colleagues Professor Michelle Ryan (University of Exeter, Exeter), Dr Thomas Schubert (ISCTE, Lisbon), and Dr Niels van Quaquebeke (Kuehne Logistics University, Hamburg).

PICTURED: Armwrestlers from Blackburn, Lancashire, taken from a low viewpoint to emphasise strength and power.

Monday, February 20, 2012

ALERT: Photography ban in central London

More bad news for photographers with big cameras in London.

Not content with being part of an Olympics plot to rob us unofficial (uncredited) photographers the right to take our big cameras into London 2012 venues, there are now plans to bring in costly permits for those wanting to take photographs around Trafalgar and Parliament Squares.

Having photographed in both these locations for projects, I can put my hand on my heart and say: This is bloody outrageous.

A permit to photograph one of the world’s major tourist destinations? And you think things are bad in France?

In short, these are the plans of the Greater London Assembly: To introduce new bye-laws requiring permits for commercial photography and filming.

As well as being a huge kick in the teeth to the media industry who will no doubt go to public spaces elsewhere until a city-wide permit is required, this will also surely impact on the amateur and documentary photographer.

For a start, place your own tripod in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square and see how fast the wardens swarm on you.

Even if the tripod is for your own personal photography won’t matter. You will be challenged, bloc ked and made to feel like a terrorist on an al-Qaeda reconnaissance mission.

I would argue that even if the tripod was put there by a professional, no-one should be reprimanded. Shouldn’t the creative industries be encouraged?

Trafalgar Square is a public place. Why would the GLA want to alienate photographers – which include tourists – in a city which relies so heavily on tourism?

I have been challenged by security guards on three separate visits to London in recent years. Taking photos in Rome, Istanbul, Antwerp, Vienna and Venice I received no such negative attention. London Town is going backwards.

At present English Heritage patrol Trafalgar Square, hunting professional photographers while seemingly ignoring tourists.

Will photographers now need to wear Bermuda shorts and pose as tourists to do their work?

The GLA have made noises that news photographers will not be stopped. But how is a warden going to know the difference. There are already strict guidelines for what the police can and, more importantly, can’t do to photographers – yet some ignorant police officers still frequently act illegally.

This plan is the recipe for the same disaster.