Reading Log Week 3

Stuart Hall – The spectacle of the other

I have studied Stuart Hall briefly during my media studies GCSE and A-Level’s, with a focus on his ‘Reception theory’. This is the idea that any audience member/ viewer will have a different ‘viewing’ of a text based on criteria applying to that viewer, a preferednegotiated or oppositional reading. For instance, a younger viewer would have a prefered reading to Peppa Pig (2004-2012) as this show is aimed at children, whereas an adult may have a negotiated reading to the show as it may be intellectually beneath them. Apart from this, I have not studied Stuart Hall as a film/media academic.

The chapter introduces first the theme, representation, and with that, stereotyping and difference. ‘Positive stereotyping’ and ‘difference in representation’ are both going to be discussed, and this looks to be a helpful read for the tasks this week:


Picking up your camera and shoot a series of portrait of your peer and of someone you don’t know, capturing different feelings:
. Head & shoulders
. Close-up
. interacting

. composition (rules of thirds)
. Location (placement of the subject in relation to the background)
. Lighting (where is the best light for your subject and the mood you want to achieve)
. Subject interaction (Try to catch elements of the subject personality)

Talk with your subject to make them feel at ease, try not to invade your subject space. Work in a team to keep safe. Be respectful at all time. Offer a copy of selected images to your subject. Explain clearly why you need to take pictures.

This task is new to me, and having to consider representation also is a daunting task, but I feel it will develop my skills as a photographer.

Hall goes on to talk about how one photo can have many meanings, many connotations. I feel it necessary to tie in my prior knowledge of Hall’s work, his reception theory, that different audience will get different meanings from the same photo based on their previous experience. Hall discusses a prefered meaning p.228 which is a highly discussed theory in filmmaking. I was reading a theory yesterday on the ‘auteur’ theory, that once a film, or in this case a photo, is published, it is no longer for the creator to decide its meanings. That the creator is allowed to have their prefered meaning of a text, but that anything in their work can be re-interpreted and argued over. (I can’t for the life of me find this source).

The ‘representation of difference’ is then put into the context of Linford Christie being talked about, the day after winning a gold medal, in terms of his penis size. This links race to sexuality in a negative way, turning an athlete into an object. (p.230) Hall talks about how it is difficult to represent the physical prowess of athletes without carrying additional messages of gender and or sexuality, as both use the human body to identify.

“Meaning depends on the difference of opposites.” (Hall 1997; 235)

What I think he is trying to say here is that breaking set conventions, e.g. Carl Lewis in high-heels for a Pirelli advertisement, is powerful because it breaks stereotypical norms of black masculinity and athleticism.


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