The Oxford dictionary defines the word stereotype as, “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” One would think that as the world’s myriad cultures mingle and intermix that the stereotypes people hold about one another would fall to the wayside. But, based on my extensive research, the reality is that stereotypes are still prevalent. Sadly, these stereotypes are used to reinforce suspicions and hostile attitudes that people have about one another. Coming from a country that is culturally and racially homogenous, I use photography to explore the very idea of stereotypes. In this project, I examined the stereotype, basing my photographic representations on an actual visual “average” determined via Google image analytics.
I started by searching the Internet for images of specific types of people - plumbers, secretaries, and priests, as well as “more general” categories of people such as nerds, hipsters, and grandmothers. I saved approximately 100 of each type, then reviewed these images one by one to determine their visual similarities, usually in clothing and accessories, hairstyles and facial hair, and gender. Then I broke these observations down into percentages. For example, of the Jewish Orthodox rabbis, 90% were wearing a hat, 92% had a beard, and 94% were male. After carefully resizing and aligning those selected images to create a consistent head-and-shoulders portrait crop, I digitally blended them together.
In Stereotypes, the final images are blurry-challenging the viewer to find a real individual in each image. There is no one person to find in these “stereotypes” and that is ultimately my point. Everyone, whatever his or her origin, is unique. A stereotype is, in the final analysis, a meaningless and harmful construction.