Analyzing Photographs

29 Sep

Branching off of persuasive rhetoric is a another very interesting topic of discussion – the photograph. Pictures and images we see in our daily life make us predisposed to certain judgments and reactions. In class, we analyzed various pictures of President Obama in his element: wearing some concoction of red, white, and blue, and conveying a powerful message through his speech. It gave us a sense of patriotism, a sense of relief – to know that our nation is in the hands of a man who is serious about his work. Soon after, we saw an image of the President in a reclined, laid-back pose in his office. It offered us another facet of Obama’s personality – casual, carefree, and loving. His family pictures were sitting on his desk and he was flashing a million-dollar smile. In the job of politicians, and amidst all the legal, social, and corporate work, there seems to be a fine line between the professional character and real character of a person. This picture suggests Obama’s real personality – how he acts in his off-time.

We came to these conclusions after closely examining every aspect of the images. The distance from subject, angle, framing, light, focus, lines, and color all affect the way we perceive images. For example, the vantage point from which the photograph was taken loosely tells us the status of the person in relation to us. A low angle makes the subject look much larger, proposing that we are looking up at the subject. Likewise, a high angle implies that the subject is smaller. An angle that is on the same level as ours implies equality, as many of Obama’s pictures do.

Images can be used for a wide range of reasons. Advertisements – ones that contain some sort of written and visual material – are used to promote a product. Ads are there to sell an idea (to a certain demographic), and they have to be very efficient in doing so. Using the same examining techniques, we can look at movie posters and how they affect us.

Take, for example, Little Miss Sunshine. It was a relatively small, independent movie, so it wasn’t fated to receive global recognition. However, its advertisement is a simplistic, appealing, and persuasive. Besides offering a wide range of actors (Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin), this movie poster is an artistic rendering of simple comedy – the kind that makes you want to know more. If we examine the distance from the subjects, we are not very close. This implies that the overall concept is perhaps not very serious. The angle of the picture is leveled, showing that these characters are running to catch up to a van. The quirkiness of the characters and framing devices reveal that this film has an eccentric vibe. The light and colors of this are bright, wholesome, and inviting.

You get the point.

There are a variety of spaces, shapes, words, and lines that we can examine – things that will always imply something about the advertisment. At a certain point, when we get the general idea, we can deem the advertisement successful, and succumb ourselves to the powerful visual rhetoric that is before us. In other words, go watch the movie.


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