My interest this week has been captured by the interplay between image and text. The distinctions of sign, signifier, signified, denoted and connoted help to give us understanding of the way hermeneutics changes between images alone and images with text.
The following image has no text. Without text it is left to the interpretation of the viewer. For those on the MA who have seen this image before it is impossible for them to offer a free description as they have already been influenced by the context given to them. To a new viewer with no extra context it is a woman in a bed, resting her head on a red pillow, wearing a black and white item of clothing, covered by red bedclothes and she is smiling. With no other information the range of interpretations (connotations and signified) for this image are unlimited.
Now consider the following image with text. Now the viewer is trapped as in an advert or a newspaper as she is influenced by the words that suggest what the image is about. As Barthes (p25) puts it ‘the text constitutes a parasitic message designed to connote the image, to ‘quicken’ it with one or more second order signifieds.’ There is not enough in these words to tell a complete story but there are enough to stimulate a reaction in the viewer. There are also enough to anchor the viewer in to a particular line of enquiry in to the image. The words have eaten away at you like a ‘parasite’ feeding on the image as you seek to create your own meaning.
I can go further in creating my advertisement or news article in the following image with text. The words have now given the answer to the viewer as to what the image is about. Depending on the point of view of the viewer they may like, dislike or be curious about what is being presented here. In the language of this week the viewer can have a dominant, oppositional or negotiated relationship with this image and its associated text.
We are bombarded with advertising images and text and, similarly news images with text, seeking to guide us to buy something or to support an opinion (propaganda). As Williamson, J (not me) says ‘Advertisements are constantly translating between systems of meaning, and therefore constitute a vast meta-system where values from different areas of our lives are made interchangeable.’ (p43) Further she says ‘They present their ‘manifest’ meaning to us as latent, thereby concealing the real ‘latent’ meaning’ (p134) and ‘although involved in a hermeneutic and limited ‘deciphering’, we overlook the signifying process itself. Our ‘active’ involvement precludes an awareness of our more complex, unchosen involvement.’ (p134) It gets scarier but we all understand this as ‘Ideology is the representation of imaginary relationships between real things: and in these ‘hermeneutic’ ads we discover meanings which, because they involve real things, seem to be real meanings.’ (p136) and finally ‘ideology is so hard to pin down or unravel: because it constantly re-interprets while only claiming to re-present reality. And in the sign’s setting itself up as a simple representation of ‘reality’, it contributes to ideology’s claim to ‘transparency’ and ‘obviousness’.’ (p136)
Our brains are wired to make quick decisions. They exist to identify threats before they harm us. What has gone before gets coded in. Mackeson used to have a tag line that says ‘and by golly it does you good.’ After the advertising standards authority forbid them from using this phrase because there was no evidence it does you good they adapted the advert as follows. Most people who had seen the previous ads would finish off the sentence ‘by golly’ by adding in subliminally ‘it does you good.’
I have a friend who is opening a new restaurant in Spain in March called Peix Blau. Previously the restaurant he ran, La Setla, was the favourite restaurant of my wife, Karen and me. I am photographing the progress of the restaurant as a story from creation to final delivery. I am confident it will be a success because Miguel Frutos is an amazing chef and knows what people like. My suggestion to him is he uses the strap line ‘YOUR FAVOURITE RESTAURANT.’ In my photographs you will see I start my pitch with a title Peix Blau – Your Favourite Restaurant and then my first words are ‘It takes a lot of effort to create your favourite restaurant.’ YOUR FAVOURITE RESTAURANT The mechanism putting images and text together can be overpowering and you will recognise how this sort of subliminal directing of you is being done all the time and most of that time without you being conscious of it. In the above Williamson, J quote I added my own bold text to the words ‘we overlook the signifying process itself.’
By the way if you are ever over here I recommend you go to Peix Blau because I know you will love it and I am confident it will become your favourite restaurant.
Barthes, R. Image, Music, Text. (1977) Fontana Press.
Williamson, J. (1978). Decoding advertisements. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Created from falmouth-ebooks on 2020-02-15 22:00:56.25
Copyright © 1978. Marion Boyars.