Tag Archives: messages

Photography a Critical Introduction, Edited by Liz Wells

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Photography a Critical Introduction, edited by Liz Wells, published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

The image on the front cover of this book was very appropriate for my experience when first reading this book: ‘Babel’ from Cockaign, by Gayle Chong Kwan.

The last listed book in my recommended reading list for the ‘Context and Narrative’ course to be read which completes my reading for both essential and recommended for the course. Phew!

I originally purchased and began reading this book for my ‘Art of Photography’ (AOP) course but I didn’t understand the relevance to my course and I also found it to be too heavy reading for me at that time and I only got half way through chapter one before putting it down.  I was keen to read books themed closer to the topics covered in the syllabus and additional technical books on composition, lighting, exposure, etc to bring me up to speed with my basic photography skills.  I felt that this book should have been listed in the essential reading list for my AOP course as none of the syllabus touched on critical theory and therefore wasn’t even appropriate for recommended reading.  However, this book was listed as recommended reading for this current coarse of Context and Narrative and in my opinion this should in fact be listed as essential reading.

This book is definitely worth reading once the critical theory of art in photography needs to be explored and understood.  There was much that linked to my current studying and I could see likely future links to my next courses, particularly chapter 4, ‘The subject as object: photography and the human body’ which discussed various forms of fetishism in art and explained what this word means in the art world.  Not just sex and deviant behavior but also desire and even a form of addiction which can be exploited by advertising, etc.

I still found it a heavy book and it took almost three weeks for me to read, but thanks to all the other reading that I have now done and the clear link it had to my current studying I was able to relate to the subject matter.  I am pleased that I have finally read this book and I realize that I made the right decision  two years ago to put the book down as I would not have understood a word and the messages that are now useful would have been missed.  I probably would not have thought to read it again; so missing a second chance to learn something from this book.

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Project 2 – Image and text

I have cut out three pictures from a daily news paper and added my own captions to the photos to alter their contextual meaning.

There are two types of messages that can be linked to a photograph, one is called an anchor and the other is called a relay.

Anchor is a message that controls the meaning of the picture.

Relay is a message that can complement an image.  If you select songs to listen to on You-Tube they are sometimes accompanied by photographs that link certain passages of the song to the image and the relay method appears to work well here.

Examples below.

Anchors – The Clooney’s meet Angela Merkel

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  • The Clooney’s negotiate for celebrity asylum in Germany.
  • George Clooney offers Angela Merkel a part in his next movie.
  • Angela Merkel asks the stars of Hollywood if they have a spare room for an asylum seeker or two…
  • Angela Merkel is coached by George Clooney before her speech to the European Parliament.
  • George Clooney complaints to the management that it just isn’t Nescafé!
  • Friends of the Clooney’s are airing concerns for George and Amal’s marriage, stating that Amal often privately complains that she feels ignored and marginalised in public by George.
  • With the support of his wife George Clooney publicly denies sending a lewd and explicit Valentines card to Angela Merkel.

I have thought of seven new messages that anchor this in a new context and I am sure many more could be invented.

Relay – The Clooney’s meet Angela Merkel

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  • Hey you with the sad face, why don’t you come back to our place and live it up.
  • “I’m sorry, I thought I saw a bureaucrat!”
  • “Ein Nescafé bitte”
  • A carrier in marriage counselling, it’s more than just a job.
  • “The Lynx affect – LYNX deodorant.
  • “Dr. Amal and I have been examining your test results and……..”
  • “He looks much older than he does in the movies.”

Again I was able to come up with seven relay messages for this photo.

George Osborn poses in front of No 11 before he takes his Budget speech to Parliament.

Anchors:

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  • George Osborne in a public show of expense cutting reveals he takes to work a packed lunches.
  • George Osborn warns the British economy is still in the red.
  • George Osborn returns from the European conference with a written guarantee from the German Chancellor.
  • George Osborn, is seen sporting the new Armani man-bag.
  • Prime-minister demotes George Osborn to head of No 10’s post room.
  • Osborn returns the queens favourite handbag, “I was able to rescue it before security blew it up.” He later reported.

I was able to produce six alternative anchors for this photo.

Relay:

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  • “I’m putting your taxes up for a start!”
  • “Allah is Great!”
  • “Swop?”
  • Is he holding the future to your pension?
  • The economy
  • Good budgeting tips.

I was able to produce six relays for this picture.

English Rugby team

Anchors:

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  • British Rugby team learn of the death of a rising star player.
  • The ball just misses the posts and England looses the match.
  • English Rugby players are asked to sing the national anthem from memory.
  • Mako Vunipola is ordered off the pitch for an illegal tackle.
  • The moment the terrorist blew himself up.
  • Hackers share shocking selfies of Mako Vunipola on stadium’s big screens.

I managed to produce six anchors for this image.

Relay:

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  • Tense nervous headache?
  • “I can’t look!”
  • Have you bought your lottery ticket?
  • “Hold my hand lest I fall…” (Jim Reeves, Take My Hand Precious Lord)

On this occasion I could only think of four relays for this picture.

I can see from these new anchor messages that an image can be turned from serious to comical or used for advertising / Political or socially concerning messages.  Similarly a relay message can do similar things including linking to literature such as poetry or lyrics to a song.

Rhetoric of the Image, Roland Barthes

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In Barthes essay, ‘Rhetoric of the image’ he uses photographs used for advertisements as an example of his argument.  Referring to an advert for Italian ‘Panzani’ pasta and salsas he describes the image as having a language that can be read, he suggest that by analysing the picture, three messages can be deduced: a linguistic message, a coded iconic message, and a non-coded iconic message.

Coded and non-coded iconic messages can be mixed together and they are visual queues often learned through cultural experiences.

A linguistic message is a message in text that accompanies the picture and this takes two forms ‘anchor’ and ‘relay’.

Anchoring is the most common and is commonly used for both advertising and press photography.  This is a form of text that anchors the meaning of the image to a written message of the advertisement or the news story.

Relay, is not so commonly used, it is often used for complementary relationships between fragments of text and images.  For example an appropriately complementing photograph to a section of text from a poem.  This type of message allows the picture and text to interact with each other. A picture of a green field dotted here and there with red poppies and a short section of a war poem suggests that the image reflects the text and the text reflects the image.  The image already has connotations of war and remembrance as does the chosen passage from a poem.

The denoted image.  Barthes writes that the denoted image for a photograph is a message without a code, the photograph is able to transmit the literal information but a drawing must first follow rules which even when denoted is still a coded message.  A drawing requires a certain amount of training thus introducing style as a second cultural coded message.  The photograph simply denoting the relationship of nature and a single culture coded message from the image itself.

Rhetoric of the image.  In an image rhetoric is the message based on cultural and educational experiences that communicate to the viewer at different levels based on education and life’s experiences this is done at an unconscious level. Objects that can be recognised as symbols for example the net bag holding the Penzani pasta products suggesting to some connotations of a fishing net or harvesting together a meal, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, connotations of the Italian flag, fresh healthy meal, etc.