The dissertation process has begun and so far, though I am feeling apprehensive with the amount of work that is to come, I am also feeling quite excited – this is probably the largest piece of written work I will ever produce in my life and it is a very independent and personal investigation and body of work.
My proposed title for my dissertation is: ‘Research into the representation of women and body image in the media, focusing predominantly on women’s glossy magazines and how the prevalence of celebrities have changed perceptions of the female body and created an unachievable ideal.’ My overall theme is body image and how it is portrayed in the media. To begin with I was quite unsure of where I was going to go in this area. Though it was an area which interests me, it is very broad and an extensive theme which I had not originally realised. This did bring up some problems for me in that I needed to hone down my ideas more to make a more realistic and achievable title and idea to work with. I had originally wanted to look at the media as a whole but with advice from Ashley, my dissertation tutor, I have decided to narrow my research down to women’s glossy magazines. Within this area of the media I can focus on imagery, celebrity prevalence and advertisements, all areas which I wanted to cover and which appeal to me most. I am enthused by the idea of looking at advertisements and uncovering the concept of femininity as a constructed ideology through analysis of imagery. I will dissect advertisements which show clearly fake or edited imagery that therefore give a misrepresentation of what women look like. I will then be using academic texts and research to understand why this is accepted in society. I came to the conclusion of focussing on glossy magazines after reading Maggie Wykes and Barrie Gunter’s “The Media & Body Image”, it came to be quite a prevalent theme in all my primary reading and it was an area which I felt I could personally relate to.
One struggle I have had throughout this process is being able to balance my subject and constellation work. I needed to do a lot of reading whilst also trying to complete a very time consuming and intense project in subject. I did not balance my time well at all to begin with and definitely neglected my dissertation preparation which I now regret. Dedicating time to do this preparation is something I need to work on otherwise next year when I am in Level 6 and have a lot more work on my plate I will struggle. However, my main struggle was the actual reading, I have never been a very fast reader so therefore I struggled with how much I was expected to read in a short period of time. I think that because I am not used to working in an academic way this was quite hard for me. We have gone from writing very short essays using very little sources or texts which were given to us, to preparing a 10,000 word essay with a wide range of academic texts which we have had to find and source ourselves. Saying his, I have found finding texts which are relevant to my area of interest very easy and there are a lot that I can read up on, it is just dedicating the time to reading that I have found difficult. The actual writing of the dissertation proposal form has also made me a little apprehensive due to these issues as well, I think that if I had had more practice in essay writing I would not feel so worried. Sometimes it feels that I just can’t express myself or get the words out the way I want.
Another issue I have had is keeping my blog up to date, I have been using my blog to note down how I am getting on and where my ideas are going but I feel that I have not used it as well as I could’ve done. To improve my blog I will dedicate time to write a post specifically about constellation and my dissertation process every week.
One thing I didn’t find difficult was finding an area I wanted to do my dissertation on, though I encountered a few problems creating a focal point, the overall area was something I quickly decided on. In Level 4 and 5 Constellation, I was really fascinated with some of the themes covered in my options choices with Cath Davies. Themes such as individual differences within stereotypes and subcultures in ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit: Subcultures and Street Style’ led me to choose Cath’s second option ‘Goddesses and Monsters: Glamour and the Grotesque in Visual Culture’ where themes of femininity were covered. This was a definite source of inspiration for me for my dissertation and the idea of femininity as a constructed notion was something that really appealed to me. I have always been quite girly and liked dressing up but like other girls I have always felt the pressure from society to look a certain way and often have doubts in the way I look. I wanted to use this dissertation to explore this idea and why we are made to feel that sometimes the way we look is not good enough. Therefore, this is a more personal exploration for me and does not necessarily influence my practice. However, I would never say that something could not give me inspiration for future projects. I feel that as a creative individual one can acquire inspiration from anywhere and anything.
I have pretty much finished my dissertation proposal form. I have answered all the questions and completed all sections, including the dreaded Lit Review! One of the things I’ve found difficult when completing my dissertation proposal is completing my bibliography, when citing my images I have added into my form I did not know who took the photographs or who owned the images. After researching online I decided to just write ‘Unknown’ for this section. This is something I will discuss with my tutor about as I understand you can lose marks through referencing.
I will take time to check and double check my dissertation proposal form before the hand in on Friday but I’m happy and proud with the fact it has been mainly completed. Normally I leave this kind of thing quite last minute but this time my time management has been less of an issue.
Today I have been continuing writing up my dissertation proposal form and have started adding imagery which I feel communicates my themes and ideas. I have split my imagery into three different sections : Celebrity prevalence reinforcing thin ideals, Examples of women’s glossy magazines showing obsession with weight and body image and Examples of the new ideal of curvaceous body ideals.
[ Nicole Richie 2005 – at 11 years old I remember seeing this image plastered all over magazines and the internet, and it was the first time I remember questioning my body shape, Was I normal? Was this normal? Was I fat? Looking back on this now, it would be shocking to think you would consider this a healthy body but when you are constantly shown images like this, how can we distinguish?]
[Star Magazine April 2013]
[ Photograph by Victoria Janashvill 2014 showing plus size model Denise Bidot (UK size 14) and a mannequin displaying a much smaller body size ]
[First ever plus size model, Ashley Graham, used in Sports Illustrated Magazine 2015 ]
Today I’ve started writing up my dissertation proposal form properly. I have been making notes on the form but my thoughts have been changing whilst I’ve been continuing with my reading.
I have finally come to a decision on what I want to focus my dissertation on and feel that this will not be changing greatly again! (HOPEFULLY!) I have had troubles in where my dissertation would be focussing on in the areas I’m interested in. I knew for definite that I was interested in femininity, body image and the media but these three themes all felt too broad and there were no particular focuses, a dissertation may be one of the longest things I have ever write but there is no way I’d be able to cover the entire media in one thesis! Media can cover everything from television, film, magazines, radio, internet and much more. And then there’s sub-categories, genre of film, reality or fictitious television, women’s or men’s magazines? The area in general was just too broad. So I have come to the decision that my focus will be on women’s glossy magazines for example Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Heat, Star etc. I will be exploring advertisements and the prevalence of celebrities in these magazines and will be exploring.
My proposed dissertation title is :
Research into the representation of women and body image in the media, focusing predominantly on women’s glossy magazines and how the prevalence of celebrities have changed perceptions of the female body and created an unachievable ideal.
My main ideas for the dissertation are to identify what are the current body ideals which are portayed in women’s glossy magazines. How these ideals can effect women’s self-perceptions and therefore may lead to destructive behaviours such as eating disorders. I will be identifying the idea that the ideal body is ridiculous and unachievable and that femininity is a constructed notion. I will be using imagery from magazines and advertisements to back these ideas up. And finally I will be acknowledging the idea of a new ideal, due to the prevalence of celebrities whom show differing ethnicities, such as Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé.
Now that I am more confident in my ideas and have a focus I feel more dedicated and excited by my chosen subject.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been so focused on my subject deadline I’ve been avoiding my reading for my dissertation. Today I had a tutorial with Ashley and I’ve regretted that I haven’t managed to balance my work better. Though I made a start on the dissertation proposal form, it definitely needs more work and thought put into it and I most definitely need to do more reading! I feel annoyed with myself as I’ve got all the books out from the library that I need and also found some really interesting journal articles but I just can’t seem to focus. I think it being the end of term is a factor, I’m taking all my books home with me over Easter and I’m not letting this poor work ethic carry on. Ashley gave me some advice and pointers regarding my dissertation proposal form, this was very helpful to work towards.
I have really enjoyed this module for subject, creating my own hypothetical design brief and seeing my work progress into designs and then finally seeing them as CAD Visuals made me feel really fulfilled and proud. I have tried to act in a very professional way throughout the process in order to produce high quality work and final samples. I have tried to complete work on self-set deadlines so that none of my work was rushed and I got everything completed on time to the best of my ability.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to work with screen printing as much as I had wished, I managed to create some designs in part one of the project but didn’t think they were good enough for my final collection. I had wished to create another design on a screen to print in part two but due to time restrictions I ended up not being able to. With this in mind I decided to focus on digital stitch for this collection – another technique highly used within the companies designs. I loved working with digital stitch as I felt it gave a really professional finish, I found the digital programme easy to get the hang of and enjoyed that there were many ways you could improve designs with a few tweaks including stitch type or direction. These are a few examples of suggestions Maggie gave me in order to improve my designs. The other set back I had in this project was that I had originally wanted to dye my own fabric to create my own colour palette with fabric, however again due to time restraints I decided that this was not a main focus for my designs and so decided to purchase some fabric instead. The colours are exactly what I wanted so I did not feel that this inhibited my designs at all.
I wanted to design my collection for the home interiors market focussing predominantly on designs for the bedroom. Thus my designs were created for wallpaper, bedding, pillows, throws and curtains; I portrayed this in my CAD visuals. I found this technique really helpful in that it showed what my designs would look like in a real life environment. This made me consider the colours and overall design of the samples – if I did not like how they looked I would’ve changed my designs, luckily I was very happy with my designs. I particularly liked the ability to show my repeat border design on the bedding; it looked exactly how I had envisaged the design. Though I designed for bedroom interiors I feel the designs could be used in other areas of the home and even a stationery collection if some changes were made.
I decided to design for Harlequin after being inspired by their Jardin Boheme collection brochure, this particular collection was full of ethnic patterns and designs incorporating techniques such as screen printing and digital stitch – both techniques I wanted to explore and experiment with in order to create a final collection. After researching the company I came to realise a lot of their collections have inspiration from this area so I decided it would be the perfect combination for my own designs.
My final twelve samples have all been inspired by my theme of geometric patterns from Northern African countries. I gained inspiration for this project from my travels to countries such as Tunisia and also Morocco when we visited for our Field Cultural Collaboration. These trips gave me a huge amount of primary research; I took a lot of photographs and drawings which enabled me to create designs based on this theme. My main areas of inspiration came from the tiles and stucco work in the countries I visited. I wanted to create my own patterns inspired by what I saw; I created basic line drawings which were quite stylised. I then used these drawings and added colour using digital processes such as Photoshop or Digital Stitch. I also experimented with painting with gouache which I have never used before – it is a media I really enjoyed using and one that I would like to experiment with more in the future.
I have loved exploring my drawing skills using the theme of geometric patterns; my drawings in this project have been very stylised and precise. I have come to realise this is a style of drawing that I really enjoy and would like to take further. I understand that I need to experiment with different techniques and sometimes it is good to be messy and experimental but I didn’t feel that this style worked with my chosen company or theme for this project. I have also really enjoyed the studio workshops and exercises we were set, in particular the accurate repeat patterns created by hand. I feel this is a very important technique to learn and explore. Throughout field I expressed my desire to explore more hand crafted techniques instead of relying on machines and digital processes, though I did not complete any textiles techniques by hand in this project I really enjoyed the repeat pattern exercises.
At points in my project I was quite apprehensive about creating twelve designs so to make it seem more manageable I decided to create three families of designs after some advice from Helen. To do this each of the three family of designs are focussed on one motif, so they also co-ordinate well together. I was a little worried when looking at my designs that because of these three families overall the designs might not of worked as well together as they could of due to a lack of cohesion.
Overall I feel this project has been a great indication of what I will be expected to do in third year by creating my own brief and having the freedom to do what I wanted. I feel that though certain things maybe held me back in this project I am becoming an independent designer. I have been very dedicated throughout the project going into university nearly every day to experiment with techniques I may want to use next year.