We judge others by their appearance, whether we admit to it or not, it’s something we have all been guilty of. It’s an unconscious and therefore uncontrollable reaction. But how accurate are our judgements? We often make rash assessments based on physical appearance alone and get it oh so very wrong.
Attractiveness plays a major role in shaping positive emotion towards a person , although according to Andrews et al (2013 p.62) we genuinely believe this not to be the case. However, research demonstrates that not only do we favour physically attractive people; we also identify beauty with an intrinsic goodness, developing what is know as a ‘halo effect’. A form of cognitive bias, which attributes positive qualities created in one area to influence opinion in another area. Ergo, we see attractive people as being far more trustworthy than those who do not possess (Andrews et al, 2013, P.65) protypical features, facial symmetry and/or sexual dimorphism.
I wanted to explore this visually but rather than utilise a model displaying all the aforementioned attractiveness traits I wanted to do the opposite, by using an image of someone who society would not deem as physically attractive in the conventional sense at least. I searched online for images at :
https://morguefile.com/ A free photo archive “for creatives, by creatives.”
I use this website frequently, as it grants access to quality, free stock photography and has provided me with some excellent images in the past. Here, I searched for male portraits in the hope that I would find a suitable image and I was in no way disappointed.
I came across a series of images of homeless men which were of excellent quality, both aesthetically well composed and technically fantastic. The fact that the images portrayed homeless men added to the message I wanted to convey. How quickly would we judge these people? Would we trust them or would their outward appearance and circumstance taint our perception of their person? I would hazard a guess that the halo effect would work recto-verso in this instance and their outward appearance would ensure that they would be considered most untrustworthy indeed.
In my book of bullshit, at the beginning of the chapter on trust, I listed a collection of words which represented the positive feeling associated with trust. I wanted to do the opposite here, so I began to compile and alphabetise a list of words associated with lies and deceit. My idea was to create a contrasting spread with the image on one side and the judgemental words of the other, thus forcing into question our perceptions of truth and trust. Below are several of my attempts at layout and composition for this piece.
After careful consideration I decided that the image in Fig 1 would be the most suitable for this composition, however I also concluded that a black and white shot presented a more meaningful outcome and that the typography and layout wasn’t working how I wanted. The typography needed to balance more with the image and communicate a clearer message to the viewer. I therefore decided to add the word trust in to the composition to contradict with the list of deceitful words and the imagery presented, thus forcing a visual dialogue of questioning. I also rotated the image of the homeless man, offering the viewer a new perspective or not facing the issue head on, again presenting another level of ambiguity to the piece.
Lastly I dismantled the word trust. Has the trust been totally broken or Is there some trust held together? The type also could be read as R – U – ST. Posing the question Are you Street? Are you aware of what is going on in the street? Are you turing a blind eye to the homeless? There are many layers to this social problem and many layers to the personal feelings of trust which I hope I raised awareness of in the visual narrative to this piece.
The final layout shown Above (fig 8) is one of my favourite pieces in terms of the balance of negative and positive space and use of colour. The striking red against the black and white is incredibly powerful. Ideally I would have liked to take my own photography but time and location were against me. Although there are many, many very poor people here in Kuwait I am unaware of any homeless people. Accessing these poor communities in 50 degree heat would have also been a very changeling and time consuming task; a whole project in itself. Maybe this is something for me to consider as a future project. But for now I am more than happy with this composition and believe it conveys an oxymoronic message which leads the viewer to question their own preconceived ideas on the notion of trust.
Andrews, M., Van Leeuwen, M. and Baaren, R. (2013). Hidden persuasion. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers.
Morguefile.com. (2016). Morguefile.com free stock photos. [online] Available at: https://morguefile.com/ [Accessed 8 Aug. 2016].
All layout designed by Lisa Winstanley 2016 Images used as follows:
Fig 1/5/7/8: Chilombiano, (2007). Smoking man. [image] Available at: https://morguefile.com/creative/3/chilombiano [Accessed 1 Aug. 2016].
Fig 2/6: BBoomerinDenial, (2012). Homeless man in hat. [image] Available at: https://morguefile.com/creative/BBoomerinDenial/2/all [Accessed 25 Jul. 2016].
Fig 3: BBoomerinDenial, (2014). Homeless man. [image] Available at: https://morguefile.com/creative/BBoomerinDenial/1/all [Accessed 25 Jul. 2016].
Fig 4: BBoomerinDenial, (2009). Homeless man profile mustache. [image] Available at: https://morguefile.com/creative/BBoomerinDenial/4/all [Accessed 25 Jul. 2016].