How to Read a Picture
Just as writers use techniques to get their messages across, artists, cartoonists, photographers, and advertisers use images and written text to convey ideas. In fact, images can convey powerful messages that words cannot. Visual artists also use various techniques (such as lighting, subject, angles, colours, focus, proportion, or composition) to get their messages across. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but you need to know how to analyze the picture to gain any understanding of it!
Images are constructed.
Always keep in mind that an image is constructed. A visual artist considers time, place, camera angle, focal point, and various other factors when creating an image in a particular way. Still images are constructed just like paintings, sculptures, and other mediums, and thus have meaning. Images are created for reasons, and artists have messages they want to convey. They use many techniques to get their messages across.
Many clues are given in an image to assist you, the viewer, in determining the artist's message. When you look at an image, look for details that answer the following questions.
- What dominates this image?
- Who are the people in this picture? What are they doing?
- What feelings are conveyed by the subject(s)?
- Where did this occur?
- When did it occur?
Then, ask a few more questions.
- How does the title or any accompanying text relate to the image?
- What is the artist's explicit, implicit, and/or symbolic message?
- For the purposes of this course, what does the image have to do with the topic?
(or whose) perspective
does the image represent?
Let's look at an example of how to apply these questions, using the image below.
Consider this image, titled "Manufacturing #17".
Now, notice how one student answered the following questions.
|For help with How to Read a Picture, download the viewing chart. |