Reading images

The first thing to think about when reading an image is to think about its rhetorical situation – the audience, context and purpose.

Sturgeon and Cartwright ‘A single image can serve a multitude of purposes, appear in a range of settings, and mean different things to different people’ – practices of looking

  • The move from passive to active. We do not passively consume images we actively read them.
  • semiotics – (the reading of images)
  • Portraits – when it includes a person it tells us a story about the main person, but it doesn’t always have to include the face to be considered as a portrait.
  • Annie Leibovitz – Pete Seegar, clearwater revival, Croton-on-Hudson, NY, 2001. This image does not include the face but we can clearly tell lots from the image because of semiotics.Annie_Leibovitz_Pete_Seger_Clearwater_Revival_CrotonOnHudson_New_York_Banjo_2001

– This image is of a man, we can tell this from the arms and hands. They are rough and masculine.

– This man is quite old and has worked hard throughout his life, this can also be told through his arms and hands.

-It could be said that he is a farmer due to his overalls, and from a southern part of America more likely to be Texas where there is a lot of farming and more country life. This is from his overalls but also from the instrument the banjo which is mainly found in parts of America such as Texas.

-From looking at his banjo and where it says ‘THIS MACHINE SURROUNDS HATE AND FORCES IT TO SURRENDER’ This could mean maybe he was apart of the peace choir or something similar, especially as at the top of the image there is a peace symbol.


Jacques-Henri Lartigue – Avenue de Bois De Boulogne, Paris, 1911jacques-henri-lartigue-avenue-du-bois-de-boulogne-1911

-In this image you can see that there is a Woman walking with her two dogs which are Jack Russells. You can see this because it is clearly shown in the pictures and it is semiotics which makes me know this.

-Looking more in-depth into the picture you can see that the woman is wealthy, this is because of the clothes that she is wearing, people didn’t usually wear fur when they had no money during these times. The way she  is holding her head high also shows that she has confidence and that she has been brought up well with etiquette. This is not usually the case when people had no money.

-The way that there is cars around is another sign of money, it seems as if the car to her left is waiting for her, where you can also see that horse and carriage was still being used you can see that cars where very rare. You would only have money to have a car or even use horse and carriage.

  • It is key to this consciously and critically when reading images.
  • What or who do you see?
  • What’s happening within the image?
  • When was the image taken?
  • Where was the image taken?
  • Why?

Then there is also non-obvious questions like…

  • What don’t you see? – is the photo objective?
  • Why did the photographer select these particular elements to include?
  • Why did the photographer emphasise certain elements and not others?
  • What is in focus? Is there only one thing or many?
  • Why did the photographer take the picture at this moment?
  • What happened before or after this image was taken?

23. Men's room, railway station, Memphis, 1955-56.jpg

Robert Frank, men’s room – railway station – Memphis, Tennessee 1955

looking this picture i thought that it looked like it was taken in the 80s rather than the 50s. The decor isn’t old and the clothing is timeless so really it could be any time. There is a hand dryer which makes you think it was taken later rather than earlier. There is a man shining shoes which makes you think that it was taken more in the 50s. The aesthetic of the picture shows you that it was taken in the 50s obviously taken by a film camera rather than digital. From looking at this picture you can see that it is a male public bathroom. This is because there is two males and that there is a large amount of urinals.


child labour doffer boy – Lewis Hine 1909

you can see in this image that it is a young boy in a factory. There is a lot of bobbins and threads making you think that it is either a clothing factory or a textiles factory. There is a lot of leading lines making you focus on the boy and what he is doing. You can see that this picture was taken in the early 1900s as child labour was abolished in 1938 so the picture had to be taken before that. From the aesthetics of the image and the clothing of the boy you can see that this picture was taken before that. Hine did a set of photographs of children in the work place and all are showing young children working at an age when they should be in school instead of working. These pictures all include leading lines to make you focus further on the child. He shows the loneliness and desolation in the workplace that these children face.



Martin Parr – Bling, bling 2007

From this image you can see that it was taken in more recent years, definitely since 2000. You can tell this from the dress sense, and the way that from the position the woman in the front is in you can tell that she is on her mobile. Looking at the way the male is dressed you can see that this is taken in an Arabic country. From all of these aspects you would think that this is a party or gathering for richer people. Both women are white and you can see that they are not originated from the country that they are in which is another reason to why the gathering if for wealthy people. Parr’s images show us the world from a perspective that we would not normally see. He sensitises our subconscious creating images that we have seen hundreds of times but never really look for.







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