GDE720 - Week 6

GDE720 – Week 6 : Research

Starting this week with ethnographic research, this term predominantely relates to the anthropological studies conducted for research purposes. Living amongst the inhabitants to fully immerse oneself in a culture and environment – it’s the ultimate way to really understand how a certain culture or people live. Take Richard Mosse’s DRC Infra series. This borders on photo journalism and he’d spent months with the inhabitants of this fractured country. The images captured the movement of the military and the natives and really created a powerful series of stories that otherwise would gone untold. By using the Infra red imagery, he’s able to make the invisible visible.

Andrew’s podcast with Stuart really helped me understand the many layers to creating a book in such a digital age. In order for a visual culture book to be successful, you need absolute clarity – on the audience, topic and the finer details such as price of the book and other considerations. By nailing all of this down only then can you really start to work on curating this book. You need a hook, why should this book be? Why should we publish it? As he goes on to say later, in this digital age, books now need to be more tangible, more physical than ever and less about information and reference. By recognising the audience, you understand how you should talk to them. Of course, a global audience is a different matter and consideration entirely and something Andrew didn’t go into much – it’s subject dependent and area dependent.

By fully researching a topic, you need to get under the skin of the subject, you need to have a certain level of expertise in this area – even if it’s a passion project. The publishers role is to take this expertise and knowledge and distill it into a saleable format, into something that can be published and sold successfully. Robson succintly wrote this in the resource book we were given, the need for focus is vital. As other modules have also taught us, it’s about picking away at a chosen topic, nailing down a really tight focal point.

Books are experiences, we all know this. If I buy a book now, I buy it for it’s physical qualities, the feel of thick, luxuious paper and the stunning images captured in perfect clarity, where you can get up close and really spend time looking at it. You don’t get that from a PDF, take Boom’s Chanel book, it’s not useful or informative, it’s luxury, it’s tangible, it’s physical and it’s useless on screen. It’s not just regurgitated history about Chanel that I can just pick off Wiki, it’s a real insight into this legend and the perfume in a deeper sense than words. Books are more fulfilling than online experiences, I always buy Lonely Planet guides for every place I go to. I’m a research fiend and I bloody love reading travel books – I once downloaded the Lonely Planet app which had more up to date information and was easier to access but I hated it. It just wasn’t the same experince and I struggled to understand this.

The internet led to an insurgence of slow journalism and people pushing for the older, more time consuming methods – take photography. Any old sod can take a click on their smartphone and call it photography, but some people just love the process and development and waiting experience you get with traditional film cameras. I have 5 sat on my shelf here and love hiding the completed film for years, then to develop the images later and see what I’d snapped. It’s way more fulfilling. Surprisingly, even Polaroids are the same for me, hiding my polaroid under something so it’s dark and waiting 5-10 minutes before seeing what the image looked like. We live in a fast paced environment, where waiting 5 minutes for a picture seems unreasonable. But people want the slower pace of life sometimes, we want something that goes against the flow, that rebels against the new and holds onto the old.

Books aren’t used for reference now, that’s all available immediately online. They need to be more than just information and reference, they need to be an experience and they need to encourage this slower pace.


Robson, C., (2002) Real world research: A resource for social scientists and practitioner researchers (Links to an external site.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers

Louisiana Channel (1916) Irma Boom: A Tribute to Coco Chanel, [online video]. Available at

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