A single image can serve a multitude of purposes, appear in a range of settings, and mean different things to different people.This image, of school children in the early 1940s who see a murder scene in the street, was taken by Weegee.
Everyday we are in the practice of looking to make sense of the world around us.To see is a process of observing and recognizing.To look is to actively make meaning of that world.Visual culture works towards a social theory of visuality, focusing on questions of what is made visible, who sees what, how seeing, knowing and power are interrelated. It examines the act of seeing as a product of the tensions between external images or objects, and internal thought processes. Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean, Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 14
The gap between the wealth of visual experience in postmodern culture and the ability to analyze that observation marks both the opportunity and the need for visual culture as a field of study.
You will have heard of Show and Tell, this is an exercise that the theorist W. T. Mitchell calls Showing Seeing. It reveals the strange things we do while looking
Visual culture is the visual construction of the social, not just the social construction of vision. Mitchell, W.J.T., “Showing seeing: a critique of visual culture”, Journal Of Visual Culture, 2002, Vol 1(2), p. 170Reciprical relationship
You are ethnographers who come from, and are reporting back to, a society that has no concept of visual culture. Ethnographersdeal with the scientific description of specific human cultures. Everything which seems transparent and self-evident is in need of explanation. You cannot take for granted that your audience has any familiarity with everyday notions such as colour, line, eye contact, cosmetics, clothing, facial expressions, mirrors, glasses, or voyeurism, much less with photography, painting, sculpture or other so-called visual media.
So how would you define culture? How would you define Visual Culture? Do you agree that a person needs to have a reference point or realize the work’s place within society to understand or extract meaning from the work?
In studying Visual Culture, the aim is to overcome the veil of familiarity and self-evidence that surrounds the experience of seeing, and to turn it into a problem for analysis. Vision, ways of seeing, is a cultural construction, which is learned and cultivated, not simply given by nature. Vision and visual images, things that are apparently automatic, transparent, and natural, are actually symbolic constructions, like a language to be learned, a system of codes that interposes an ideological veil between us and the real world. In what ways does it transcend specific or local forms of social construction to function like a universal language that is relatively free of textual or interpretive elements?In any case what we are no longer looking at an object only as art, but rather another product of our Visual Culture.
In recent years Art History has come under scrutiny, with many feelingthat Art History is lagging behind in incorporating the visual world of today with the traditional base of the discipline. The traditional ways of educating people needs to change in order to keep up with our visual worldArt History is the historical study of artists, artistic practices, styles, movements, and institutions. Art History has the inclination to celebrate the formal rendering of a work of art. Visual Culture can be considered as an evolution of art history. Visual Culture is an expansion of art history’s resources to encompass the full range of images.
The Canon of ArtThe canon can be seen as a body of work, which has been established as representative of the best examples of a particular genre. The works of art that are included in the canon are considered to be masterpieces. The works included in the canon set a standard from which other works of art, whether new or old, which are not included in the canon can be judged. Art History is a skewed perspective that places particular artists on a pedestal and reinforces the genius in an ivory tower paradigm. The canon is considered to be the prime object of the art historian, while art history helps to legitimise the canon. The canon of art is supposed to be a collection of artworks of supreme and eternal value that is worthy of being studied. This is still the dominant way of teaching art history in high school and even at universities. From the second half of the 20th century onwards, however, the concept of the canon has dealt with a lot of criticism. Modernist as well as postmodernist perspectives claim that the canon doesn’t represent a collection of artworks of eternal value, but is constructed along ideological, social, economical, gender and cultural lines. Art history as such, is seen as a Eurocentric endeavour, serving and legitimising the cultural tastes of a small minority of the Western elite. We only have to look at the Gombrich’s The Story of Art and its erroneous ommission of any female artists.
Art appreciation When we look at a painting or sculpture, we often ask the following questions: who made it?; what is the subject?; when was it completed? These are quite valid questions that are often anticipated and answered in, for example, the captions for illustrations in art books and the labels for works displayed in museums and galleries. For many of us these pieces of information are sufficient. Our curiosity about the who, what, and when of art is satisfied and we can get on with appreciating the artwork, or just enjoying looking at it. The important thing to note about this kind of art appreciation is that it requires no knowledge of art history. In this way, art appreciation requires no knowledge of the context of art; the ‘I know what I like and I like what I see’ approach to gallery- going is sufficient. And this is absolutely fine. We can enjoy looking at something just for what it is and art can become absorbed into what might be called popular culture. Art appreciation can also involve the more demanding process of criticizing the art object on the basis of its aesthetic merits. Usually aspects such as style, composition, and colour are referred to, and more broadly reference is made to the artist’s other work, if known, or to other artists working at the same time or within the same movement or style. Visual Culture is defined as a focus on cultural meaning of a work of art, rather than on its aesthetic value. Art history focuses on the aesthetic valued of a work, whereas Visual Culture focuses on the cultural meaning of a work of art. Art history was quite elitist in what could be studied, while visual culture incorporates film, photography, graphic design and new media etc. Study of visual culture merges popular and "low" cultural forms, media and communications, and the study of "high" cultural forms or fine art, design, and architecture. "The History of Art," like the cultural category of art, is a development from Western European and American institutions and disciplines.
Art appreciation and criticism are also linked to connoisseurship. By its very name this implies something far more elitist than just enjoying looking at art.The notion of connoisseurship refers to one who is considered to be an authority on beauty and aesthetics and is more capable than others to pass judgment on the quality of cultural objects. Thus, taste is not inherent in particular people, but rather is learned through exposure to social and cultural institutions that promote certain class-based assumptions about correct taste.The specialist connoisseur may work for an auction house – we have all seen how on television programmes such as the Antiques Roadshow experts are able to identify and value all manner of objects, not just paintings, on the basis of looking at them closely and asking only very few questions of the owner. This kind of art appreciation is linked to the art market and involves being able to recognize the work of individual artists as this has a direct effect on the work’s monetary value.
This traditional view is that a work of art speaks to people no matter what time, space or socio-political / economic system is in place when the piece is perceived anew, and regardless of one’s class, gender, and so forth.In contrast, Visual Culture takes into account the situations and circumstances from which art was created. What was going on in the society in which the artist lived at the time, who was in power politically, what kind of economic system was in place? The assumption is that all of these factors influenced the artist in the creation of their work. The meaning can be extracted differently. Visual culture also says that it is important to take into consideration the situation in which it is viewed because these impact on the perceived meaning within the piece.
We are all participants in Visual Culture“This is Visual Culture. It is not just a part of your everyday life, it is your everyday life.”To live in any culture whatsoever is to live in a visual culture.
Visual Culture is a growing interdisciplinary field of study, which emerged out of the interaction of anthropology, art history, critical theory, philosophy and many other disciplines that focus on visual objects or the way images are created and used within society.
Visual Culture is concerned with the production, circulation, and consumption of images and the changing nature of subjectivity.Studying visual culture therefore means studying not just the visual products of society, but also the dominant ways of looking and seeing that define social identities.
Nicholas Mirzoeff offers an explanation…(paraphrasing what he says)Modern life takes place onscreen. Life in industrialized countries is increasingly lived under constant video surveillance from cameras in buses and shopping malls, on roads, and next to cash machines. More and more people look back, using devices ranging from traditional cameras to camcorders and Webcams. Our experiences are now more visual and visualized than ever before. In the era of the visual screen, your viewpoint is crucial. For most people, life is mediated through television, film, and the Internet. By this I do not mean to make the claim that our contemporary era is unique or unprecedented in its obsession with vision and visual representation. The invention of photography, of oil painting, of artificial perspective, of sculptural casting, of the internet are all occasions when a new way of making visual images seemed to mark a historical turning point.What I am drawing your attention to is the fact that the obsession with vision and visual representation takes on a very specific form in our time. Furthermore, whilst we observe this wealth of visual experiences in contemporary culture this is not the same thing as understanding it.
Clement Greenberg was an influential modernist art critic who argued for maintaining art’s purity by separating it from
The power of visual images, their efficacy as instruments or agents of domination, seduction, persuasion, and deceptionis important because it exposes the motivation for the wildly varying political and ethical estimations of images.
The distinctions between different kinds of culture have traditionally been understood as the difference between high and low culture.Traditionally, high culture has meant fine art, classical music, opera, and ballet.Low culture was a term used for comic strips, television, and initially for cinema.
There is no doubt that many people think the distinction between high art and mass culture is disappearing in our time, or that distinctions between media, or between verbal and visual images, are being undone. The question is: is it true? Does the blockbuster exhibition mean that art museums are now mass media, indistinguishable from sporting events and circuses? Is it really that simple? I think not. The fact that some scholars want to open up the domain of images to consider both artistic and non-artistic images does not automatically abolish the differences between these domains. In the domain of visual images, those of fine art form a tiny minority. Those of us in Western industrialized cultures live in a multimedia environment in which mechanical and electronic images, text, and sound are an almost constant presence, particularly in the mass media.The term mass media has been used to define those media designed to reach large audiences perceived to have shared interests.
In considering the idea of culture and travel the questions…may be considered as general topics for exploration.This lecture will introduce the ways in which disciplines like social anthropology and material cultures enhance our understanding of the social, cultural and historically specific meanings and practices associated with culture and place.
Visual Culture examines the relationship between things, space, and everyday practices. A culture’s use of imagery is part of the shaping of its world view. This is also known as our Cognitive Outlook. Or in other words the framework of ideas and beliefs, that distinguish that culture. This lecture provides you with some perspectives in order to engage with ideas about the production of knowledge about culture through visual realms and material culture.
Cultural PerspectivesSo if you recall form last week: Visual Culture is everything that is seen, that is produced to be seen, and the way in which it is seen and understood. It is that part of culture that communicates through visual means, a tactic for studying the functions of a world addressed through pictures, images, and visualizations, rather than through texts and words.
Cultural variations are often the cause of major and minor misunderstandings as groups come into contact with one another
Another way we might understand a place is through its heritage, this is particularly pertinent to tourism.
For most of us, answering questions about identity begins by listing details that can be found on birth certificates–name, sex, ethnicity, and family origins. And for example when we want to research our family histories we locate the birth certificates of known family members because these documents provide essential information about the identities of ancestors. The importance of birth certificates might suggest that identity is basically fixed and stable from the time of birth.
The final step in the construction of Alterity is to institutionalize these prejudices in our laws and customs. When laws, group culture, educational values, and social custom operate as if prejudices were truths, then we have racism, sexism, classism, anti-semitism, and so on. Racism is institutionalized racial prejudice; it has the weight of the entire society to enforce it. Sexism is institutionalized gender prejudice. Classism is institutionalized class prejudice.
The creation of binary opposition structures the way we view others. One of the oppositional terms is always privileged, controlling and dominating the other.Most commonly, another person or group of people who are defined as different or even sub-human to consolidate a group's identity. For example, the Nazi's internal cohesion depended in part on how they defined themselves against (strove to maintain distinctions from) their image of the Jews. In this sense, "The other" is the devalued half of a binary opposition when it is applied to groups of people.
Although both anthropology and art often have different criteria, methods and techniques, both share the ambition to reflect on the human condition and to give meaning to existence.
Some of the main cultural phenomena studied in cultural geography include language, religion, different economic and governmental structures, art, music, and other cultural aspects that explain how and/or why people function as they do in the areas in which they live.
Material Culture is concerned with the relationship between artefacts and social relation.Material Culture Studies aims to systematically explore the linkage between the construction of social identities and the production and use of culture.
Spaces where political ideologies are played out in the context of everyday practices such as consumption, appropriation and societal organisation.The physical placement, or framing of an object can change the objects meaning.Historical connotations, economic value, symbolic meaning and value
Guidelines on Visual AnalysisVisual language can be read in the same manner as any other language although visual language can fool us by seeming natural and therefore self-explanatory. The codes of the image must be deconstructed to release the social and cultural meaning of the image or visual language. An example that can be given for the relationship between the image and its meaning is an iceberg. Only 10% of an iceberg is visible above the water. The remaining 90% of the iceberg is suggested by the part we can see. Say an image is beautiful or significant but rather to attempt to explain why it is so. To read the image one must attempt to understand, interpret and evaluate the visual message.
All images are both encoded and decoded.An image or object is encoded with meaning with meaning in its creation or production and when it is placed in a given setting or context.It is then decoded by viewers when it is consumed by them.These processes work in tandem.Is animage simply a reflection of this particular scene or does it produce meanings about these objects?We learn the rules and conventions of the systems of representation within a given culture.Many artists have attempted to defy those rules and conventions and to push at the definitions of representation.
What is the significance given to who made the work?oppress womenrestricting their movement, and seeing them as objectsMisogynistic? They obviously reflect the objectification of women in that the woman doubles as a sex slave and a piece of furnitureAcomment on how women only have the duality of the roles of the sex object or the housewife, a figure that blends into the background, becoming ‘part of the furniture’ so to speak, until they are required for their other role.
How does this image change the meaning of the dominant ideology of Da Vinci’s work?
Subverting imagery of Shonibare which turns history on its head, inserting himself into positions of power , in this case in a stately drawing room.He parodies European culture and cultural works, and encourages us to recognise that cultures and histories shift. Western thought’s monolithic sense of itself is undermined. New ways of thinking about the world, relating to history, race, ethnicity, culture and power are introduced.
You will develop your understanding of the ways in which
images and artefacts can be analysed in relation to their
cultural, social and historical context
You will develop your analytical skills to analyse visual
works and develop your understanding of visual culture
and its implications for understanding cultural activity
Ways of Seeing
Visual culture works towards a social
theory of visuality, focusing on
questions of what is made
visible, who sees what, how
seeing, knowing and power are
interrelated. It examines the act of
seeing as a product of the tensions
between external images or
objects, and internal thought
Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean, Museums and the
Interpretation of Visual Culture, London:
Routledge, 2000, p. 14
Diary of a Victorian Dandy
Dominance of the Image
Visual culture is concerned with visual
events in which
information, meaning, or pleasure is
sought by the consumer in an
interface with visual technology.
By visual technology, I mean any form
of apparatus designed either to be
looked at or to enhance natural
vision, from oil painting to television
and the Internet.
Self Portrait of You + Me (Signoret)
Looking through Tom
Visual culture is the visual construction of
the social, not just the social construction
Mitchell, W.J.T., “Showing seeing: a critique of visual culture”, Journal
Of Visual Culture, 2002, Vol 1(2), p. 170
You are ethnographers who come from, and are reporting back
to, a society that has no concept of visual culture.
Everything which seems transparent and self-evident is in need
You cannot take for granted that your audience has any
familiarity with everyday notions such as colour, line, eye
contact, cosmetics, clothing, facial
expressions, mirrors, glasses, or voyeurism, much less with
photography, painting, sculpture or other so-called visual media.
Just popped out back in 2 hours
Vision as a cultural activity
Vision, ways of
seeing, is a cultural
construction, which is
cultivated, not simply
given by nature.
What about Art History?
In recent years Art History has come
Art History is the historical study of
practices, styles, movements, and
Art History has the inclination to
celebrate the formal rendering of a
work of art.
Visual Culture can be considered as
an evolution of art history. Visual
Culture is an expansion of art
history’s resources to encompass
What about Art History?
The canon is considered to be the
prime object of the art
historian, while art history helps to
legitimise the canon.
The important thing to note
about this kind of art
appreciation is that it requires no
knowledge of art history. In this
way, art appreciation requires no
knowledge of the context of art.
Visual Culture is defined as a
focus on cultural meaning of a
work of art, rather than on its
Connoisseurship and Taste
This implies something far
more elitist than just
enjoying looking at art.
This kind of art appreciation
is linked to the art market
and involves being able to
recognize the work of
individual artists as this has
a direct effect on the work’s
How do museums and other cultural institutions influence
our interpretations of taste?
What is Visual Culture?
Very broadly, Visual Culture is everything that is
seen, that is produced to be seen, and the way in
which it is seen and understood. It is that part of
culture that communicates through visual means.
Format wars (HD DVD), 2007
Visual culture, to borrow
definition, is perhaps best
understood as a tactic for
studying the functions of a
world addressed through
pictures, images, and
visualizations, rather than
through texts and words.
What is Visual Culture?
We are all participants in Visual Culture
“This is Visual Culture. It is not just a part of
your everyday life, it is your everyday life.”
Hotel Room (2010)
Visual Culture is a growing interdisciplinary field of
study, which emerged out of the interaction of
anthropology, art history, critical theory, philosophy
and many other disciplines that focus on visual
objects or the way images are created and used
Visual Culture Studies
Bob and Roberta Smith
Hijack Reality (2008)
Visual Culture focuses on aspects
of culture that rely on visual
Visual Culture is
concerned with the
and consumption of
images and the
changing nature of
Visual Culture involves exploring, analyzing, and
critiquing the relationship between culture and
visuality, from a range of diverse theoretical
Art history Postmodernism
Gender studies Marxism
Feminism Sociology Globalisation
Poststructuralism Literary theory
Philosophy Cultural anthropology
Queer Theory Film/TV
Why study Visual
Our experiences are
now more visual and
visualized than ever
before. In the era of
the visual screen,
your viewpoint is
crucial. For most
people, life is
television, film, and
The Visual Culture approach acknowledges the reality of living
in a world of cross-mediation.
Our experience of culturally meaningful visual content appears
in multiple forms, and visual content and codes migrate from
one form to another.
Why study Visual Culture?
d Roberta Smith Make your own damn art... (1999)
Images often move across social arenas from documentary
images to advertisement to amateur video to news images to
Each change in context produces a change in meaning.
A recreation of
New Ways of Seeing
Visual Culture studies recognises that the visual
image is not stable but changes its relationship to
exterior reality at particular moments.
A single image can serve a multitude of
purposes, appear in a range of settings, and mean
different things to different people.
Representation and spectatorship involves
relationships of power.
We decode, or read, complex images almost instantly, giving little
thought to our process of decoding.
We decode images by interpreting clues to
intended, unintended, and even suggested meanings.
These clues may be formal elements of the image, such as
colour, shade, and contrast, or the socio-historical context in which it
Banner held up by Celtic
football fans, deriding their
rivals Glasgow Rangers
Study of Visual Culture merges popular and low
cultural forms, media and communications, and the
study of high cultural forms or fine art, design, and
Big Fat Gypsy Weddings
Visual Cultural Perspectives
Visual Cultural Perspectives
Visual culture analyses
the relevance of
classed, gendered, se
xual and raced social
The study of Visual Culture can include anything from:
• Video art
• Digital art
• The Internet
• Mobile screenic devices
• Medical & scientific imaging
• Architecture & Urban design
• Social spaces of museums, galleries, exhibitions, and other
private and public environments of the everyday
(1909 – 1994)
Avant-Garde and Kitsch (1939)
• Art of the masses, or kitsch, is uncultured.
Kitsch is tied to mass production, and is
not genuine culture
Many of Greenberg‟s ideas have
been abandoned in contemporary
criticism, no longer does art criticism
make such a harsh distinctions
between high art and low art.
High and Low Culture
What is natural and what is acquired in our
Artifacts and pictures have been made to be seen in
a certain way, that is to say, they are social and
cultural, not natural.
Visual Culture focuses on the visual as a place where
meanings are created and contested.
Jeremy Deller Sacrilege (2012)
Visual Culture Studies involves an analysis of
contemporary culture, media and society
It important to understand how societies construct
their visual perspectives through
knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, laws, and
customs, amongst other things.
I Give You All My Money
Images and Power
All images are produced
within dynamics of social
power and ideology.
Ideology is the shared set of
values and belief which
individuals live out their
complex relations to a range
of social structures.
Ideologies often appear to be
natural or given aspects of
Images and Ideology
Ideologies are produced and affirmed through the social
institutions in a given society, such as the
family, education, medicine, law, the government, and the
entertainment industry, among others.
Joanne Tatham &
The Story… (2012)
The emergence of Visual Culture
develops what W.J.T. Mitchell has
called Picture Theory.
Spectatorship (the look, the
gaze, the glance, the practices of
observation, surveillance, and
visual pleasure) involves many of
the same strategies as reading in
order to analyse an image
(decipherment, decoding, interpre
Barbara Kruger. Your gaze hits
the side of my face (1981)
Representation refers to the
use of images (and language)
to create meaning about the
world around us.
These systems have rules
and conventions about how to
express and interpret
We learn the rules and
conventions of the systems of
representation within a given
Faust in his study
Image and Meaning
All images have two levels of meaning:
The denotative meaning of the image refers to its literal
The connotative meanings rely on cultural and historic context
of the image and its viewers.
The Myth of the Image
Roland Barthes uses the
term myth to refer to the
cultural values and beliefs
that are expressed through
connotations parading as
Myth is the hidden set of
rules and conventions
meanings, which are
specific to a certain
group, are made to seen
Thank You (2012)
Visual literacy has no limits. It is not just the
understanding of canonical fine art, or the business of
advertising, but also the entire visual world.
Visual Culture studies provide you with the ability to
analyse the visual world.
Nam June Paik
Culture and Travel
are we going?”
and “Why do we
do what we do?”
Visual Culture involves
exploring, analyzing, and
critiquing the relationship
between culture and visuality,
from a range of diverse
It important to understand how
societies construct their visual
perspectives through knowledge,
beliefs, art, morals, laws, and
customs, amongst other things.
Bob and Roberta Smith
Culture Bashing is Book
A specific set of
behaviors, beliefs, at
titudes, values, and
ideals that are
characteristic of a
particular society or
Culture and Heritage
• NOT history
• A carefully selective engagement with the past
• A way of making the past coherent, manageable and
meaningful for the present
• A comparatively recent form of leisure pursuit and culture
• Material: listed buildings, protected landscapes, art, and
• Conceptual: shared memory, myth, beliefs about the past
• Also, officially defined, policed and protected national
construct (e.g. National Trusts)
Culture and Identity
Who do you think you are?
For most of us, answering
questions about identity
begins by listing details that
can be found on birth
name, sex, ethnicity, and
Cultures are learned through the process of enculturation.
Culture is learned and passed
down from previous generations.
It is not something an individual
is born with.
Learning culture is continuous
Cultures involve the use of language and
symbols - things that stand for something else.
Things that strike us
as „natural‟ or
„normal‟ or „common
sense‟ or „human
nature‟ are often
On the Road
Museum and display
We can explore other cultures by, studying
behavior, customs, material culture
(artifacts, tools, technology), language, etc.
The Man Who Flew
into Space from His
• Learned. Process of learning one's culture is called enculturation.
• Shared by the members of a society. There is no „culture of one‟.
• Patterned. People in a society live and think in ways that form
• Mutually constructed through a constant process of social
• Symbolic. Culture, language and thought are based on symbols
and symbolic meanings.
• Arbitrary. Not based on „natural laws‟ external to humans, but
created by humans according to the needs and preferences of
the group e.g. standards of beauty.
• Internalized. Habitual. Taken-for-granted. Perceived as „natural.‟
The idea that one
persons culture is
superior to other cultures.
It is important ensure that
attitudes such as this do
not pollute the
interpretations of any
culture being studied.
First we construct some group as Other.
Next we project onto it those qualities we reject, fear, or
disown in ourselves.
Then we assign qualities to variable human individuals on the
basis of their inclusion in this constructed Alterity.
Once we take this step in our construction of Alterity, then, at
last, we have also created prejudice and stereotyping.
Alterity is not the same thing as prejudices (for example,
racism, sexism, classism), although it leads to them.
Nature David Shrigley
refers to the spread of
one culture at the
expense of others
usually because of
or political influence.
Culture and Power
is not neutral.
Many people never
acknowledge how their day-
to-day behaviors have been
shaped by cultural norms
and values and reinforced
by families, peers, and
social institutions. How one
defines „family‟, identifies
desirable life goals, views
problems, and even says
hello are all influenced by
the culture in which one
The Location of Culture
Artist as Ethnographer
Ethnographic aesthetics: the
intersection between art and
ethnographers, train their
eyes to see things other
people don‟t see. They try to
present what they see so that
we, the audience, can glimpse
something where we have
looked a thousand times and
failed to find anything
Anthropology is a tool for
understanding what makes
people and cultures different
and what makes them the
Studying and going to „other‟
cultures provides us with
comparative perspectives of
share a set of
that raise similar
Artist as Anthropologist
Culture and Place
Places are created by
Places are never
Gallantry and Criminal Conversation (Parasol)
Cultural geographers study the cultural aspects that explain how
and/or why people function as they do in the areas in which they live
e.g. language, religion, different economic and governmental
structures, art, and music.
Berlin from above Berlin in parts
From: Odd Things Happen When You Chop Up Cities And Stack Them Sideways
Globalisation is also
important to this field
as it is allowing these
specific aspects of
culture to easily travel
across the globe.
Bob and Roberta Smith
Everything is Made
Material Culture is
concerned with the
artefacts and social
Material Culture Studies
aims to systematically
explore the linkage
between the construction of
social identities and the
production and use of
The meaning of objects shift
and change according to
the various physical,
temporal, social and cultural
contexts in which they are
used and displayed.
Museology is the science of
collecting and arranging
objects for museums.
Guidelines on Visual Analysis
• Visual language can be read in the same manner as any other
language although visual language can fool us by seeming natural
and therefore self-explanatory.
• The codes of the image must be deconstructed to release the social
and cultural meaning of the image or visual language.
• An example that can be given for the relationship between the
image and its meaning is an iceberg. Only 10% of an iceberg is
visible above the water. The remaining 90% of the iceberg is
suggested by the part we can see.
• Rather than say an image is beautiful or significant you need to
attempt to explain why it is so. To read the image one must attempt
to understand, interpret and evaluate the visual message.
Interpreting the content of the visual image can be
undertaken through a number of means:
Analysing the syntax of the image including style and composition.
Syntax being the building blocks of the image pictorial
structure, graphic composition (shapes, lines, colour) as well as things
such as camera placement, editing juxtaposition and point of view.
Analysing the techniques used to produce the image.
Evaluating the aesthetic merit of the work.
Evaluating the merit of the work in terms of purpose and audience.
Discussion of the context of the work.
Attempting to grasp the interaction, innovation and affective
impact and or feeling of the image.
Examining the social impact of the image and discussing the
purpose and the relationship between the audience and the
authorship of the image.
Discussion of the manipulative uses and the ideological
implications of the image.
Understanding an image can also be achieved by
asking questions such as:
Who created the image?
In what point of history and in what context was the image created?
The abuse of power comes as no surprise
For what purpose was the image created?
In what context is the image being seen?
Who is the intended audience?
What has been omitted, altered or included in the image?
What does the image say about history?
Diary of a Victorian
What does the image communicate about individual or national
What does the image communicate about society?
What aspects of culture is the image communicating?
Miley Cyrus and
2013 MTV Video