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The Pink & Blue Project
Yoon, JeongMee

 

My current work, The Pink and Blue Projects are the topic of my thesis. This project explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. 1) The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism 2) , urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism.

The Pink and Blue Projects were initiated by my five-year-old daughter, who loves the color pink so much that she wanted to wear only pink clothes and play with only pink toys and objects. I discovered that my daughter's case was not unusual. In the United States, South Korea and elsewhere, most young girls love pink clothing, accessories and toys . This phenomenon is widespread among children of v arious ethnic groups regardless of their cultural backgrounds . Perhaps it is the influence of pervasive commercial advertisements aimed at little girls and their parents, such as the universally popular Barbie and Hello Kitty merchandise that has developed into a modern trend. 3) Girls train subconsciously and unconsciously to wear the color pink in order to look feminine.

Pink was once a color associated with masculinity, considered to be a watered down red and held the power associated with that color. In 1914, The Sunday Sentinel , an American newspaper, advised mothers to 뱔se pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.4) The change to pink for girls and blue for boys happened in America and elsewhere only after World War II 5) . As modern society entered twentieth century political correctness, the concept of gender equality emerged and, as a result, reversed the perspective on the colors associated with each gender as well as the superficial connections that attached to them 6) . Today, with the effects of advertising on consumer preferences, these color customs are a worldwide standard.

The saccharine, confectionary pink objects that fill my images of little girls and their accessories reveal a pervasive and culturally manipulated expression of “femininity” and a desire to be seen. To make these images, I arrange and display the cotton - candy colored belongings of several children in their rooms . When I began producing the pink images, I became aware of the fact that many boys have a lot of blue possessions. Customers are directed to buy blue items for boys and pink for girls. In the case of my eleven-year-old son, even though he does not seem to particularly like the color blue over other colors, whenever we shop for his clothes, the clothes he chooses are from the many-hued blue selection. The clothes and toy sections for children are already divided into pinks for girls and blues for boys. Their accessories and toys follow suit.

The differences between girls' objects and boys' objects are also divided and affect their thinking and behavioral patterns. Many toys and books for girls are pink, purple, or red, and are related to make up, dress up, cooking, and domestic affairs. However, most toys and books for boys are made from the different shades of blue and - are related to robots, industry, science, dinosaurs, etc 7) . This is a phenomenon as intense as the Barbie craze. Manufacturers produce anthropomorphic ponies that have the characteristics of young girls. They have barrettes, combs and accessories, and the girls adorn and make up the ponies. These kinds of divided guidelines for the two genders deeply affect children's gender group identification and social learning. 8)

As girls grow older, their taste for pink changes. Until about 2 nd grade, they are very obsessed with the color pink, but around 3 rd or 4 th grade, they do not obsess with pink as much anymore. Usually, their tastes change to purple. Later, there is another shift. However, the original association with the color-code often remains.

When I take pictures, I begin the photographic session by arranging the larger items blankets and coats, and then spread the smaller articles on the bed and floor. When I first started taking these pictures, the objects were arranged without an order, but I soon realized that the photographs in which small possessions are well organized and displayed in the front of scene make the images appear to be more crowded. This method shows my organization of subjects similar to the way in which museums categorize their inventories and display their collections.

The subjects' expressions and poses are very important elements in my pictures. I ask each model to sustain a blank, neutral expression to underline an “objectification” of each child and I request various poses to heighten the differences in gender and personal characteristics among my subject. I also ask for feminine and masculine expressions and poses of them. I use five to eight rolls of films and choose the best picture among the sixty to ninety proofs. Sometimes, I get an unexpected gesture of expression that represents the child well. Their subtle gestures and poses are related to their own characters as well as my intention. It is a puctum of my pictures,9)so my The Pink and the Blue Projects seem very similar, but subtle and interesting characteristics of each model emerge.

To capture the crucial photographic moment of a child's facial expression as well as to assure that the fine details can be seen, I used a medium format camera. Because children are not always able to attain or hold the desired expressions and poses, I take several rolls of film at each shoot. I use a 6x6 format Hasselblad camera to make the objects seem more crowded and spectacular; this works better with a square frame rather than a rectangular one. To achieve a hyper-realistic painterly quality of the objects and subjects, I use the smallest aperture, f-22. In some of the pictures, the children are placed in the background and this, coupled with their blank facial expressions, give them a doll-like appearance. Diffused lighting is used in order to flash all the articles in a small room evenly.

I am fascinated with the accumulation of things. Themes of my past photographic series include: “Zoo” (1998-1999); “Natural History Museum” (2001); “Space-Man-Space” (2000-2004); and images of a toy collector's possessions (2004). The “Zoo” and “Natural History Museum” series explored artificial environments that are arranged and organized through predetermined classifications. In “Space-Man-Space,” I photographed workers at shops located in Insa-dong and Chunggaechun in Seoul, South Korea. The store areas are very narrow and the owners must classify and organize their items to effectively sell and display as much as possible for their customers. In the “Space-Man-Space” series, I created the images from the pre-existing organization of objects. In the Pink and Blue Projects, I arranged and sequenced the items. The structure of “Space-Man-Space” and my toy collector's pictures are similar to The Pink and Blue Projects in that I used the same camera techniques.

[ Notes ]--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1) Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests : Cross-dressing & Cultural Anxiety (Routedge, 1992) 2
Note that it is the connotations of the colors, and not the perception of the genders, that has changed

2) Media Awareness Network - Special issues for young children - Young consumers as collectors
Marketers have discovered something about children that parents have long known-they love to collect things. Kids' collections used to consist of marbles, stamps or coins. But now, thanks to our consumer culture, kids amass huge collections of store-bought items such as Beanie Babies, Barbies or Pokemon cards and figures. The marketing strategy behind the Pokemon was simple and lucrative-create 150 Pokemon characters, then launch a marketing campaign called “Gotta Catch ‘Em All,” to encourage children to collect all 150 of the cheaply made, over priced figures

3) ‘ Ads and kids : How young is too young?' Media Channel.org - Issue Guides - Marketing to Kids.
A child wakes up in her Disney character pajamas, rolls out of her Barney sheets, her toothbrush, toothpaste and perhaps even her soap covered in cute licensed characters. Gathering up her Pokemon cards and strapping on her Rugrats Backpack, she heads off to school.

4) The Sunday Sentinal, (March 9, 1914)

5) Marjorie Garbor, Vested Interests : Cross-dressing & Cultural Anxiety (Routledge, 1992) 1 Baby clothes, which since at least the 1940's have been routinely divided along gender and color lines, pink for girls, blue for boys, were, said the Times , once just the other way around. In the early years of the twentieth century, before World War I, boys wore pink “a stronger, more decided color,” according to the promotional literature of the time, while girls wore blue (understood to be “delicate” and “dainty”). Only after World War II, the Time s reported, did the present alignment of the two genders with pink and blue come into being. .

6) Elliot Bledsoe, Pretty in Pink, www.vibewire.net (Sep 2003) Traditionally, babies in most societies were gender-neutral, as in they were “it” rather than “he” or “she”.

7) Griffiths, Merris, ‘Blue World and Pink Worlds : A Portrait of Intimate Polarity', In : Buckingham, David(Ed.) (Leicester University Press 2002) The social worlds of boys and girls may in fact be much less polarized than the famously constructed worlds of Barbie and Action Man. Numerous studies suggest that children's play is a reflection of gender stereotyped socialization patterns and that toys are important in their ideological formation.

8) Arch Sex Behavior - An Evolutionary perspective of sex - typed toy preferences : pink, blue, and the brain ,Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, (2003 Feb), 32
Contemporary conceptual categories of “masculine” or “feminine” toys are also influenced by evolved perceptual categories of male-preferred and female-preferred objects

9) Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida : Reflection on Photography, (La Chambre Claire Publishing, 1981), 25-27.

[ Works cited ]-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Marjorie Barber, Vested Interests : Cross-dressing & Cultural Anxiety (Routedge, 1992)
  • The Sunday Sentinal, March 9, 1914
  • Griffiths, Merris, ‘Blue World and Pink Worlds - A Portrait of intimate polarity' in Buckingham : David (Ed), (Leicester University Press, 2002)
  • Arch Sex Behavior - An Evolutionary Perspective of Sex - typed Toy Preferences : Pink, Blue, and the brain , Yale Child Study Center , New Haven , Connecticut , USA , (2003 Feb)
  • Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida : Reflection on Photography, (La Chambre Claire Publishing, 1981)
  • Bad Girls, The New Museum of Contemporary Art , New York . (The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts ; London England. 1994)
  • Adrienne Salinger, In My Room (Chronicle Books LLC, 1995)