SENSORY RESPONSES TO GLITTER
Glitter is something we associate with naivety and childhood and are quick to put down, but really, a person of any age cannot deny that their eyes are instantly attracted to that slight sparkle like moths to a flame. For someone deeply interested in photography and visual aesthetic, I sought to discover how much of that visual attraction to shininess is too much. To do so, I brought together a photo shoot with Alize Raptou in which she is adorned with sparkles and rhinestones on her cheeks and chest, some subtly, some not so subtle. I manipulated four of those photos that represent the sparkles in different ways through Photoshop, and removed the glitter and rhinestones. I proceeded to show these images side by side to thirty-two college aged individuals (eighteen males, eighteen females, though gender proved to have no consequence to the results and preferences were rather dependent on personality).
(Mouse over below image for photo number identifications to correlate with below graph)
My beliefs going into the experiment were that universally and unambiguously subject would favor the images with glitter. However, my beliefs proved to be half true. It did remain true that the eyes of each viewer were drawn to the images with glitter. However, in images 1 and 4, people preferred the version without the glitter, whereas images 2 and 3 people preferred the original versions with glitter.
I concluded that while it remained true that every beholder’s eyes were naturally drawn to the sparkles, people did not prefer that to be the case. In images 1 and 4 the sparkles are much more in your face, and because they draw the eye so forcefully, they distract from the main subject of the photo. In 2 and 3, the sparkles serve their purpose of drawing the eye and accenting the color in the photo, but they’re subtle enough that they don’t distract from the main subject.
In presenting this at the research forum April 8, 2015, I found I was still somehow exercising my experiment even in post production. To add aesthetic and relevance to the poster I sprinkled on some extra glitter. I found many people were approaching me and saying “I saw sparkles; I have to know what this is”. Some people even skipped over many of the posters next to me, rather than following the natural order of the room’s set up. Many weren’t actually interested in my research, but rather were attracted to the shininess that radiated from my poster.
It must be noted that this shoot was not originally conducted for the purpose of presenting or even conducting research, but rather was something for my own pleasure and photographic skill enhancement. Had I known what it would have been used for, I likely would not have used the rhinestones and just would have used glitter to more adequately test my hypothesis in a more controlled way.
However, at the end of my research, I spoke with production manager and lighting designer for OSU’s dance department, Carrie Cox, about how one would best light a piece that contained a reflective element such as sparkles or even a mirror or window. But amidst all her technical terms and lighting techniques, what struck me was that she kept saying “it depends on what
you’re going for”. Yes, this data shows that there is a certain moderation of levels in light reflection that are most appealing to the eye, but what is most appealing is not necessarily the intent of the artist. My intent in this shoot was to capture my friend in an environment which I would suit her personality. As long as one’s choice in their work is a conscious and meaningful choice, whether it is the scientifically proven, most aesthetically appealing way to make a work, does not make it the right way. Whatever one’s artistic goal is is the right way, and in a sense, that means there is no right way.
Below featured is the shoot with Alize in its entirety