In front of the lens : the expectations, experiences, and reactions of visual journalism's subjects
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Visual journalism is a curious form of social interaction usually involving strangers and the process of transforming one's private life into public spectacle. Sometimes the interaction between journalist and subject is extended and in-depth, sometimes it is brief and shallow, and sometimes, it is nonexistent. People are often reactive to cameras and tension can exist between the idealized ways people want to be depicted and the ways journalists visually render them. Considering that visual media are "complex reflections of a relationship between maker and subject in which both play roles in shaping their character and content," scholars have called for more research on journalists' subjects and how they behave in front of the visual news media. This study answers that call and provides one of the first empirical glimpses into how people regard the experience of being imaged by visual journalists photographers. Since a primary arc of the study is concerned with the nature of experience, it adopts a phenomenological approach and seeks to identify 1) the expectations that news media subjects have of visual journalists, 2) how journalists' subjects perceive the experience of being imaged in a news media context, and 3) how the subject's identity and representational aspirations affect their perception of the imaging event. These questions are explored through a four-pronged approach: 1) non-participant observations, 2) word association exercises, 3) in-depth interviews, and 4) photo elicitations. The findings suggest that subjects are more outcome-- rather than process-focused; that technological changes and resulting behavior shifts are altering the nature of reality and experience, which has implications for privacy and consent; and that perception is quite fluid and can be impacted by identity, habituation, and emotionally valenced experiences.
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