Micah’s Visual Rhetoric

While choosing these images I thought of how I had been raised and what I was taught about this country. There are negative pictures in my collage, but there are also positive ones that outweigh the negative. I do not think a person had to live through these events for them to have meaning. I think the tone of my picture collage is optimistic. Despite its issues, I believe America is the greatest country in the world.

I’ll begin with the slave hands picture.  This picture is one of the negative aspects of American history.  The slave hands are a persuasive visual message and emotional. The image reminds us how America was built on the backs of its minorities.  I chose a picture featuring the hands of a black person, but Asians, Mexicans, and Native Americans could all have been featured. The feeling I associate with this picture is sadness. I think the image is instrumental in reminding us that we need to do a better job ensuring equality for people of all races, and its primary appeal is the feeling of being shackled. The photo would elicit different responses in different audiences. A black person might feel anger, and a white person might feel shame.  But in the context of the rest of the collage, the photo elicits hope because our nation has moved beyond this time and equality is closer than before.

It seems fitting that after talking about how sad America makes me, I should mention how proud it makes me, too. Pride is the feeling I would associate with the American flag. While there were many horrible injustices that went into shaping America, it has done nothing but move forward. America is the land of opportunity and the flag embodies that.  The bold red, the pure white, and the deep blue make me think of hard work and success.  The flag represents not just a nation, but the idea of freedom. Other audiences might have different responses to the flag, and in parts of the world the flag might represent dominance or tyranny. But in my collage the enthymematic response is pride.

The next picture I chose was a painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River. This picture evokes a message of hardship. The enthymematic response is that a price was paid for the freedoms we enjoy today.  The photo would not bring a positive message to a British audience, and it may also cause a Native American to react negatively.

I wanted an image that represents our military, so I chose the phrase “Army Strong.” I chose this because I think that without a strong military we would not be where we are today. We are the most powerful nation in the world and that makes me feel very safe.  It goes along with the picture of George Washington because his military prowess was an early example of “Army Strong.”  It also, along with the famous World War II photo, reminds us of victory in the fight for freedom. I realize that, in focusing on Army, people who have served in other branches might feel slighted. Americans who are against war would also respond in a negative way to the image. I think this image is more consummatory than instrumental as it speaks for itself.

Democracy is something that America is known for. We are free to participate in electing our own public officials. The image of people raising their hands elicits a feeling of unity and participation. The phrase DEMOCRACY! hammers the importance of the message. Even though this election season may be a particularly volatile and difficult one, the pure idea is still a positive thing.

The pictures above all support the three principles of visual rhetoric we discussed.  For example, “Army Strong” is a message that is volatile.  There are many mixed feelings towards our military.  A picture that says army strong has the ability to insight many emotions in people, all depending on their opinions on war and the army. The images are persuasive and use few if any written words.  They persuade efficiently using emotion and enthymematic responses.

Each picture I chose creates a virtual experience of America and alters perception in the way they illustrate positive change in our nation. They all take me to a place where I am reminded of America and its development thus far.  The picture of slave hands reminds me of what was once wrong with our nation.  The image of peace and love reminds me of the Sixties but also shows how far we have come.  The Mustang, McDonald’s, and JOBS images convey prosperity and capitalism in a universal way. While some may respond negatively to the images, the primary appeal is to fun and youth and success.  The images of athletes and celebrities are also tools that convey the ideas of prosperity and achievement. The collage as a whole is instrumental in bringing about positive emotions about America.

If the photos were taken by someone who was making fun of our country, the response would be quite different. The audience might then get the idea of how superficial and materialistic our nation is. That was not my intent for the collage, however, and I hope it conveys a message of optimism and pride.

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