What is this? What aspect(s) of Japanese culture might this thing represent? Consider these questions in terms of 1) multivocality of images and 2) the problem of the audience.
"The 'meaning' of the ethnographic film [or visual image] is not inherent within the film itself or in the intentions of the author, but is a negotiable property that lies within a conceptual triangle formed by the (film) subject, the filmmaker and the audience" (MacDougall in Banks 2001:140, brackets mine).
Who is your visual project intended for? Who is going to see it? Academics? The general public? What do they know about your subject? What don’t they know about your subject? How much do you want to explain? How much do you want to leave to your audience’s interpretation? What about multiple audiences? What about a “native” audience?
Even with taking all of these questions into consideration, it is impossible to control or mandate how any individual will "see" and react to your image. Do you want such control? What is a visual anthropologist to do? How much (con)text should one include with a visual image? Is a study guide appropriate? Do you want your audience to be limited by your own intentions/explanation? How much do you want to leave to the individuals' own interpretation? Do you want to hear other interpretations?
Inspired by Marcus Banks, Visual Methods in Social Research (London: Sage Publications, Ltd., 2001).
Umeda on a Sunday Evening, Playfully 1
I showed this photo to a friend and told her beforehand that I was in Umeda the previous evening and took some pictures. "This is Umeda?" she asked. "This is not the IMAGE I have of Umeda..."
Umeda on a Sunday Evening, Playfully 2
"Ahh, this is Umeda... This is more of the IMAGE I have in mind... I KNOW that building..."
Umeda on a Sunday Evening, Playfully 3
A local band by the name of MIRACLE was playing on the walkway between the Osaka train station. Th female lead singer danced about, especially at the chorus of the song: "3-2-1-Peace!" with a high verticle jump throwing the peace sign into the air, along with a few in the crowd who were watching/listening. In the front of the band were a small boy and girl, dancing playfully as well. To their right (unfortunately outside the picture) was a little (as in small and short) old (as in his 60s or 70s) man who was dancing even more wildly and having the best of times. A pleasant Sunday evening for sure. The band finished and began packing up. A few minutes later 2 uniformed police officers ran up to them to tell them to get out - no performing allowed on such a pleasant Sunday evening. I slowly followed these officers back to their small police box. Right outside the box, literally, was a young man with a small red velvet table and a deck of cards, blatantly engaged in games of chance with passer-bys. And unbothered by any law enforcement.
Anyway, any guesses about the image at the top? Hint: It's not in Umeda... (I recently figured out how to allow everyone to leave COMMENTS without having to sign in or sign up for anything. I remain, yours, in the spirit of open-text and collaboration...)