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jenny kidd

on 22 February 2017

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On one level, images can be said to document. In other words, they show particular events, particular people, places and things. Or in semiotic terminology, they denote. So asking what an image denotes is asking: Who and/or what is depicted here? …. Other images will still depict particular people, places, things and events, but ‘denotation’ is not their primary or only purpose. They depict concrete people, places, things and events to get general or abstract ideas across. They use them to connote ideas and concepts. So asking what an image connotes is asking: What ideas and values are communicated through what is represented, and through the way in which it is represented? [Machin, 2010 Analysing Popular Music: image, sound, text 35-36]
a bit more theory...
Charles Sanders Peirce

iconic signs
indexical signs
symbolic signs
[see Branston & Stafford, 2003 for more on this...]
1. Context is Everything
The Presentational context
The Production context
The Historical context
Textual context
The context of reception
2. Photos as windows on the world?
'the photographer has to make a number of choices, of framing, point of view, lenses, lighting, film, speed, etc - plus all the choices in The darkroom. Put together, all of these choices provide the photographer with ... space for her or his subjectivity' [Gripsrud, in Gillespie and Toynbee: 30]
3. The Moving Image
4. Interplay of text and image
Think about the relationship between captions and images in the press.

How many captions can you come up with for the image below? In what other contexts can you imagine coming across this image?

Can you imagine it in an advert? What for?
How have your pre-existing prejudices and world views informed your answers to the above?
A sample analysis...
‘In news reports, for example, it is possible to show a photograph of a muslim woman in traditional clothing, wearing a veil, next to an article on Muslim-related issues. But it is not possible to say ‘All Muslims look like this’. Visual communication, by its nature, tends to be more open to interpretation, which gives the author some degree of maneuvere not permitted through language use. They can use the image of the Muslim woman in traditional clothing to place the story in a broader discourse about clashes of culture and values. But this is done implicitly through visual semiotic resources.’ (Machin and Mayr: 31)
Doing an analysis – utilizing a critical perspective. [Adapted from Lester, 2010]
1.Make a detailed inventory of all you see in the image.
2.How do the visual cues work to produce meaning? (colour, form, depth etc)
3.Identify iconic, indexical and symbolic signs.
4.Image aesthetics.
5.What purpose does the work have?
6.What are the various contexts of the works production, display and reception?
7.How does it relate to other elements? (textual, graphical etc)
an ad is... ‘never the programme they are watching, never the letter they are waiting for, never the website they are seeking, not the part of the newspaper they are reading’ (Cook: 2001: 1
that ‘asking someone their opinion of advertising in general, or of a particular ad, can be to embark upon an emotionally and ideologically charged discussion, revealing their political and social position, and their acceptance of, or alienation from, the status quo.’ (Cook, 2001:2)
‘Ads use fictions, word play, compressed story-telling, stylized acting, photography, cartoons, puns and rhythms in ways which are often memorable, enjoyable and amusing.’ (Cook, 2001:3)
analysing an advert...
1. Textual form
2. List the signs, think about the interplay between them
3. Think about cultural codes
4. Technical effects
5. Think about narratives that are being constructed
6. Look at the relationship between different elements
7. Unpack intended readings
Doing an analysis involves...
1.Making a detailed inventory of all you see in the image and thinking about relationships between signs
2.Reading how the visual cues work to produce meaning (eg colours, symbols, lighting, framing, foreground, background, angles, timing)
3.Thinking about the purpose of the work
4.Analysing the various contexts of the works production, display and reception
5.Thinking about how it relates to other elements – textual, graphical etc.
Anchorage and Relay
‘According to this view, to present computer-mediated pictures where the alterations done are not detectable as through they were ordinary photographs, is to tamper with notions of truth that are fundamental to modern science, politics, law and a number of other social and interpersonal domains.' (Gripsrud in Gillespie and Toynbee: 31)
the connotative functions of images
1. the more abstract an image is, the more its connotative communicative function is foregrounded
2. context is key
3. image makers rely on established connotators
Machin and Mayr: 50-51
'Most of the roughly one billion people around the globe who saw this piece of video thought they saw an example of brutal, in policing terms, and totally unnecessary violence. One might say the overwhelming majority of television viewers spontaneously applied a moral connotational code for the interpretation of fights that awards sympathy to the underdog, a person lying on the ground while attacked by several enemies – the guy who is alone against many.

But the white jury from the white suburb in the ensuing trial did not apply such a code, not after the policemen’s lawyers had completed their analysis of the footage in court.

Through innumerable repetitions, uses of new framings, slow-motion, reversals and stills, the video sequence was in a sense emptied of the moral and emotional significance perceived by most television viewers. The spontaneous code was replaced with another, which (finally) became possible to use.

A space was opened up for moral and emotional connotational codes that members of the jury and many in their social category have readily available: black Americans in confrontations with the police are connotationally interpreted as dangerous, violent, drug-intoxicated criminals. The police officers’ claim that the abuse of King was necessary because he was aggressive became believable’ (Gripsrud in Gillespie and Toynbee: 38-39)
‘Here there are many deep truths, and also some deep untruths. I believe the need to connect with others is the primary reason why we use media. We don’t like feeling alone. This sentiment is captured beautifully by the ad. However, Facebook’s suggestion that it’s like a doorbell, chair or bridge is completely disingenuous. Those are objects that lack a systemic, corporate agenda that tracks its users interests and then sells them as commodities. Imagine the chair you sit in monitors all the activities of the room you’re in and the conversations your having with your friends. The chair then compiles that information and sells it to other chairs so that when you enter into other spaces, the chair forces you to sit in a particular position so that you see ads or through a window that you had no intention of looking through. What if the chairs re-arranged themselves to encourage you to sit with particular people that you didn’t intend to sit with? I imagine that we wouldn’t like these chairs very much.’ (Antonio Lopez, http://mediacology.com/category/advertising/ )
'images are composed of elements that are not as clearly distinguished as the word-signs of verbal language. The meanings of images are therefore often unclear, fleeting or plural.' (Gripsrud in Gillespie and Toynbee: 32)
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