Welcome back to my blog! Today I thought I would share my first written piece of work at University with you. Our task was to write a ‘Visual Analysis’ essay about a given photograph; mine was Gavin Watson (2014)- a Dr Martens Campaign ad. We were advised to split the essay into three key sections; description, formal analysis and deeper interpretation, and of course end with a summative conclusion. Below is my attempt of the essay, I hope you enjoy reading!
Gavin Watson 2014.
The black and white photograph taken by Gavin Watson (2014) is a Dr Martens campaign image featuring a female model. She wears military style clothing, a classic bomber jacket, polo shirt, and a pair of Dr Martens; she has been styled to look like a 1960’s ‘skinhead’. Moreover, the model is pictured whilst looking through a collection of LPs, sat on a low brick wall, with her legs astride. The backdrop is urban; a council estate within a city, made up of flats with small windows. Further, the setting is amplified by broken/unwanted waste situated on the floor within the background, as well as cracked pavements, highlighting the urban decay of the area. A final notable point when describing the image is the model’s eye line; she is looking away from the camera, possibly distracted, with a wondering expression. Each element of the image help to form the assumption that the photographer has tried to recreate a 1960’s style photograph, maybe even a personal memory; Watson documented the social, multicultural and musical scene that flourished around him (Sonja Nettelbladt, 2013), as well as becoming a skinhead himself during his youth.
Young Skinheads in the 1960’s wearing Dr Martens.
There are a few key visual components of the photograph; the brick wall itself poses as a horizontal line that cuts through the image, ending with the model sat upon it. This draws attention to the protagonist i.e. what she is doing, wearing etc. Additionally, vertical and horizontal lines work together to make up the photograph, e.g. the windows that are repeated rectangles that run down the buildings as well as the continued brick pattern, both of which are structured. The brickwork of the flats has a gradient effect; they start off pale grey, and get darker as they get closer to the floor, followed by dark pavement. The gradient makes you follow the changing colours, leading you down to the shoes. Further, the only non-straight line within the image is the vinyl record the model is holding; it is circular. The round item stands out symbolising that the music on the vinyl itself isn’t conformist or rigid, much like the music wasn’t in the 1960’s when LPs were popular.
Another image by Gavin Watson that uses the gradient effect.
The female protagonist has an averted gaze (rather than looking directly into the lens) which suggests that she has been distracted, thus, this poses several questions; What/who has distracted her and how? Further, her eye line creates a candid effect to the photograph; it looks as if the photographer has caught the model off-guard. Candid’s capture life and people as they really are, with emotional immediacy that communicates narrative outside of the world of fashion (Eugenie Shinkle, 2008). This natural effect adds emotion to an otherwise harsh image, which would be appealing/relatable to a potential consumer. Additionally, a personal touch is added to the photograph in relation to the model flicking through the LPs, which creates a visual contrast of human vs. industrial. Moreover, there is another visual contrast within the photograph; despite her styling, the model herself has quite gentle and innocent features which contrast to her sharp black fringe. It can be interpreted that although the setting and styling are suggestive that the model’s personality should be harsh, angry, loud etc. instead it seems that there is a naivety to her, something that a Dr Martens consumer could relate to; innocence behind the rebel.
The photograph looks as if it was taken in the 1960’s, featuring a genuine female skinhead, rather than an inspired photo taken in 2014, because of it’s grayscale effect. Grayscale also amplifies the rebellious tone of the photograph, something that might have been lost if it was in colour. Thus, the photograph’s aesthetic fits the brand’s image very well, and communicates the heritage of Dr Martens to the audience, without having to use words. The white socks create a sharp contrast against the dark clothing and black Dr Martens, which consequently makes them stand out. This is further enhanced because the plane of the image is in focus, whereas the recession is blurred, and so, your eyes are drawn to the model in the centre.
The photograph has been taken outside rather than in a studio, which makes the image look like an un-posed snapshot of an ‘ordinary’ person. Further, the model looks as if she has been influenced by her surroundings; as Shinkle states the street is a legitimate site of creativity, and therefore, real people on the city streets are often captioned by the city where they have been snapped (Eugenie Shinkle, 2008). Therefore, this effect wouldn’t have been obtainable in any other setting.
Overall, the image is a successful piece of fashion photography; it communicates a story, engages an observer and appeals to the target audience of Dr Martens; people who have their own individual style but share a united spirit (Dr Martens Official site).
- Heinrich, W (1929) ‘Principles of Art History’, Dover.
- Shinkle, E (2008) ‘Fashion as Photograph’, Chapter Two, 13 and 14, IB Tauris.
- Image one: Northey, S (2013) ‘Dr Martens Research’, Cop Article (Blog).
- Image two: Nettelbladt, S (2013) ‘Gavin Watson’, Radar.
Reflection: Overall, I am happy with my piece; for a first written essay on the FCP, and at University level, I think it went quite well! I managed to analyse the image, give my own interpretations and back them up with quotes from a selection of sources. I haven’t had any formal feedback yet so I hope that that will highlight areas of improvement for future essays. After this visual analysis piece I am feeling more confident about my writing ability ( after having a gap year I thought my brain would struggle !), and am looking forward to getting stuck into the next task! I hope you liked this post, if you managed to get through and read it all well done you ! ( I know it’s pretty long lol ).
Thanks for reading,