Sydney’s Visual Rhetoric

  1. Just looking at these images brings about a variety of emotions. Some images are meaningful and historical, while others present controversial issues in our culture. Overall, the composition may appear visually appealing and colorful, but as each picture is broken down individually, there are mixed emotions which are brought out. There are certain images I am drawn to visually, emotionally, and some not at all; however, I feel that each one has its place in representing American history and our current culture.

    The majority of the events/issues presented in these images are ones that I have personally lived through or experienced. The others, are ones that I believe have historic significance but also have the ability to hold meaning in today’s context.

    All of these images support at least one of the three principles discussed in the text. For example, the photo of the twin towers supports the second principle: “visual messages are volatile, eliciting positive and negative responses simultaneously,” in addition to the third principle: “visual messages are efficient, emotional, and enthymematic in the way they persuade.” Depending on whether or not the viewer lived through this event, this photo could elicit very strong emotions of sadness and despair. In addition, depending on in what context this photo is used, it could have a powerful message to persuade others or educate individuals on the horrors of terrorism. In regard to the first principle, the illustration of the couple talking while staring at their phones is a literal representation of what it states. The principle reads: “Visual messages are pervasive and threaten to eclipse the influence of the spoken word in the 21st century.” People within our society have become so consumed by technology and the visual messages found on screens that actual verbal communication is slowly losing its significance.

  2. I believe images have the power to create virtual experiences for the viewer. The images of 9/11 and the “I Have a Dream” speech both have the ability to take viewers directly to those moments in time. The 9/11 image is especially impactful for me because, even though I was very young, I still remember vivid details from that day, and images of the event are able to trigger those memories. All of these images have the ability to influence or trigger a specific emotion within a viewer. Depending on the viewer’s culture, beliefs, and experiences, images can have an endless number of purposes. For example, the equality symbol may have a very personal meaning to a person within the LGBT community, while to others, it is just another symbol. Also, the image of the tattered American flag may strike a chord with a military veteran more so than it does with an average individual. The purpose and impact of a particular image can vary dependent on the viewer and his/her current situation.
  3. The general tone for each of these images is one that is bold. There is also a sense of timelessness and relevance associated with each one. Although some of these images are taken from an exact moment in history, there is still a connection that can be made today. Andy Warhol’s Marilyn print is an iconic piece of art that is easily recognizable. Marilyn Monroe, the subject of this piece, was a famed celebrity and sex symbol of her time. This piece pays tribute to that, but it is also very relevant today with the emphasis and importance our society puts on celebrities. It seems that nearly everything we see in the media is over-sexualized or tied to fame and fortune. This is just one example of the way these images were used to express bold messages when they were originally introduced, and how the same tones can still be seen today.

    These images also stand out because of their visual composition. Elements such as space, lighting, color, and balance all have an effect on the image’s tone and message. The photograph of the girl eating the cheeseburger is shot from a low angle with a heavy focus on the cheeseburger. The figure and ground relationship in this image puts a strong emphasis on what she is eating, showing the viewer every little detail. Since the cheeseburger appears much larger than normal, it conveys a certain tone which is meant to overwhelm or disgust the viewer.

  4. There are definitely distinct target audiences for these images. Some, like the body image photo and “We Can Do It!” poster, are geared more towards women, while others are generally targeted at the American public as a whole. Overall, the primary target audience for these images extends from teenagers to seniors because all of the images are related to American history and culture. Any individuals younger than this demographic may not quite comprehend the significance of these images.

    The images I chose are also not discriminating. Some of them highlight controversial topics regarding race, gender, and sexual orientation; however, they all take an objective stance on these issues. Also, none of the images express much of a consumer interest. These images address specific issues or moments in time which define the American culture. It is possible for these images to be used to persuade, but none of them signal the interest of consumers in particular. In addition, I do not believe that these images were meant to elicit any voyeur tendencies. There may be some which have the potential to invite these tendencies, but I do not believe it was part of the photographer/artist’s original intent.

  5. As mentioned, these images can be perceived to be very powerful and persuasive depending on the viewer. I believe that all of these images use primary persuasive appeals to some extent, but the way in which they are received is what varies. I also believe that most of these images are culture-specific. Since these images were chosen to represent American history and culture specifically, the appeals will be more effective on Americans. However, there are some images which can relate to other parts of the world, they just may not be “universal.” For example, the image about social media is very culture-specific because of our country’s dependence on it. This image can also be relevant in other parts of the world where social media is very popular, but it would not be relevant to areas where technology is not present.
  6. The technical features of each images has a huge impact on the way the visual message is received. In many of these images there are ways in which certain aspects could be altered to entirely change the image. For example, the photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his “I Have a Dream” speech would be quite different if the image did not show the massive crowd stretched out in front of him. If the angle of this shot was slightly altered, a viewer may not have perceived the sheer impact of this moment in time.

    Another example is the image of the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. This is, yet again, another iconic image in American history. The composition of the photograph is what makes it so impactful—the diagonal line of the flag pole, the forward-moving motion across the page, and the use of space all make this a powerful image. If this photo would have been shot once the flag was already raised, making a vertical line straight upward, this image would be substantially different. The image would, visually, not be as appealing, but it would also lose the tone of struggle, perseverance, and grit that is displayed through the process of raising the flag.

  7. In some instances, the organization or individual who is credited for an image has importance, but in this case, the images speak for themselves. Sure, Andy Warhol is a famous artist who created the Marilyn Monroe piece, and J. Howard Miller created the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster, but these details are unimportant in this context. The images I chose have the ability to convey specific messages independent of their creators or photographers.
  8. I chose a combination of black and white photographs, illustrations, art, posters, symbols, and color photos to display my view of American history and culture. Stylistically, the sheer contrast of these images only adds to an over-arching theme of diversity. Looking at the images all together, it is easy to see and understand different viewpoints all at once. Whether or not I agree with what is conveyed in all of the images is not important; it is the fact that the montage structure helps to put things into perspective and introduce new viewpoints. One person may look at this and see the issue of gun control, the promotion of feminism, and the benefits of social media. All the while, another person could look at it and still have completely opposite views on these issues. A visual message and how it is received all depends on the viewer and his/her own opinions, beliefs, and values.
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