http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpjGISvBSpM (Barbara Kruger)
There is much more meaning to an image than just the sole picture itself. Images are works of art, and, according to American conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, a work of art can be “a potential commodity, a vessel of financial speculation and change .” Images can also tell and capture stories, insinuate thoughts, and bring emotions to the people that see them. An excerpt from Lucy R. Lippard’s Double Take supports this idea, stating, “the photograph implies a dialogue, an exchange, an I/eye ( the photographer) and a You (her subjects, and we the viewers…)” . People have different ways of looking at these images and interpreting them when trying to gain the message that the image is trying to give, and pedagogy, the art of teaching can be used to help people better interpret these images.
Some images make use of hegemony, otherwise known as influence or control over a group of people . According to the second chapter of the book Practices of Looking, “Most if not all images have a meaning that is preferred by their producers .” This basically means that although we may not always notice it, the images that we see on a daily basis usually have meanings behind them that are meant to influence the viewers to feel or act a certain way. These images have a certain power upon people, something that may influence or control someone to do something. A clear example of this influence can be seen in today’s popular culture (activities or products aimed at the general mainstream mass of people), specifically through advertisements you can see on billboards, the internet, or on television.
Images are also often used in advertisements to promote and influence people to buy some of their goods and/or services, otherwise known as consumption. In turn, this attracts more and more consumers, people who acquire these goods and services. Sexism, the preferring of one sex over another, is frequently seen especially through the use of women in advertisements. Pictured above is a Budweiser beer advertisement showcasing three women, clearly meant to be sexually appealing, as the objects, the main things or ideas in the image.
Images can be used as tools as well. The people behind the idea of this Budweiser advertisement used representation, the use of images or objects, “sexually appealing women” in this particular case, in order to generate more business for the company. This representation is used very often in today’s culture. Blatantly placing them in the middle of the advertisement presented especially impressive to the viewer (the spectacle) as the ad’s general focus is a marketing technique meant to reel in people who may be sexually attracted to these women. At first glance, the person viewing the advertisement sees the women. “Sexually appealing” women catch the eye much more than simple bottles of beer would. This use of imagery in advertisement is what causes the people to purchase products from the company, creating more business and revenue. Images can be powerful.
“The gaze” is how the subject intently looks into the lens of the camera, with some kind of desire making a connection to the photographer and the people who view the image. This goes back to Lippard’s idea in Double Take: “the photograph implies a dialogue, an exchange, an I/eye ( the photographer) and a You (her subjects, and we the viewers…)”. This “gaze” is important when looking at images as well, because it can tell you much more about the photograph’s story– how the subject relates to the photographer and the feelings that may have been captured at the time of the shot. The gaze was used as far back as when photographers took some of the very first images of Native Americans years ago. Those pictures did more than just capture the sole image, it captured something much more deep. It captured the Native American’s expressions, emotions, appearances, and showed these things to the rest of the world.
Power and influence play a large role in imagery. As cliché as it sounds, people have said “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Images, whether or not you notice it, interpret many different things and are more powerful than you think. Next time you see an image or an advertisement, think of what the photographer could possibly be trying to promote, whether good or bad.
1. Krueger, Barbara. “Arts and Leisure.” Remote Control. N.p.: n.p., 1993. 1989
2. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture
4. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture