Category Archives: 01 Captions and titles

Exercise 4.4

The brief:
Over the space of a few weeks gather newspapers that you can cut up, preferably including a mixture of different political points of view. Have a look through and cut out some images without their captions. You could choose advertising images or news.

For each image, write three or four different captions that enable you to bend the image to different and conflicting points of view.

What does this tell you about the power of text and image combinations?

Now write some text that re-contextualises these images and opens them up to alternative interpretations.

Write some notes in your learning log about this exercise. How might you use what you’ve learnt to add a new dimension to your own work?

Fig 1: CBC News
  • North Vancouver RCMP arrest perpetrator in Monday’s shooting
  • Police arrest man at airport after immigration confusion
  • Man cleared of groping woman on SkyTrain is re-arrested
  • Drug dealer arrested in upper class neighbourhood
Fig 2 CBC News
  • Canada and Mexico arrive at G20 summit together
  • Canada and Mexico to sign a new trade agreement
  • Enrique Pena Nieto and Justin Trudeau to make a stand on NAFTA agreement
Fig 3: Vancouver Sun
  • Premier Christy Clark has a new man in her life
  • Premier Christy Clark enjoying a laugh with fellow colleague at Canucks Hockey Night
Fig 4: Metro Vancouver
  • Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank entrepreneur, Kevin O’Leary announces special scholarship to encourage entrepreneurial studies in Canadian universities
  • Shark Tank entrepreneur, Kevin O’Leary gives speech after ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange
  • Dragon’s Den entrepreneur, Kevin O’Leary answers questions from the press about his forthcoming photography book
Fig 5: Metro Vancouver
  • Subway to take part in Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations in July. Each store will give away 150 free foot-long sandwiches on July 1, 2017 – a limitation of one per person.
  • Subway to open 150 new branches during 2017 in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.
  • Subway and Tim Horton’s plan a merger
Fig 6: North Shore News
  • West Vancouver’s Fire and Rescue unit to relocate
  • West Vancouver’s Fire and Rescue to hold a Fill the Boot drive to raise funds towards new equipment for the burn unit at Lions’ Gate Hospital
  • Council slashes budget for West Vancouver’s Fire and Rescue unit. Public protests expected

All the images I have used are very open-ended and without any accompanying text really leave themselves wide open to any amount of interpretation. I think for some of the articles better images might have been chosen, e.g. Fig 1 is so generic. There is absolutely nothing that hints at an illegal border crossing. I don’t think this was done to protect the individuals as this story has consistently been on our news lately and the actual refugees that have been crossing over have been interviewed and shown on TV, so a still from the newscast might have been preferable.

All these images have needed a strong anchorage by way of the caption confirming the ‘who, what, why, where and when’ (Bull p 40) of the image.

If my object in my work is to create ambiguity then I would create a vague caption that allows the viewer to put down his/her own interpretation to the image. If I was doing work more of a documentary nature and wanted to convey a precise message I would very clearly think out an appropriate caption that directed the viewer to the correct level of interpretation.

Fig 1’s actual caption is: A growing number of people have been arriving at Canada-U.S. land borders to claim refugee status, but officials can’t say how many people are sneaking in – or how many are being allowed to stay.

Fig 2’s actual caption is: As of March 9, the Canada Border Services Agency has detained more Mexican refugee seekers than in all of 2016. In June 2016, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.

Fig 3’s actual caption is: British Columbia Premier, Christy Clark, left and Telus Corp. President and CEO Darren Entwhistle share a laugh before he announced a $1-billion investment to connect the majority of homes and businesses in Vancouver directly to a gigabit fibre optic network, during a company event in 2015.

Fig 4’s actual caption is: Conservative leadership candidate, Kevin O’Leary speaks at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ont. on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (To provide a little more perspective he was speaking about the uncovering of fraudulent Conservative Party members after voter-rigging had taken place – we currently have a party leadership race happening here).

Fig 5’s actual caption is: Subway says its chicken is just that: chicken. But a CBC Marketplace story said it found 50 percent of the chicken is soy filler.

Fig 6’s actual caption is: Two Douglas fir trees that tower behind the District of West Vancouver’s Fire Station No 4 are the subject of a legal dispute.

Reference List

Bull, S (2010) Photography. London: Routledge

Images

Figure 1. Chiasson, P. (2017) A growing number of people have been arriving at Canada-U.S. land borders to claim refugee status, but officials can’t say how many people are sneaking in – or how many are being allowed to stay. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/asylum-seekers-statistics-difficult-to-track-1.4028468 [Accessed 18 March, 2017]

Figure 2. Wattie, C. (2017) As of March 9, the Canada Border Services Agency has detained more Mexican refugee seekers than in all of 2016. In June 2016, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/mexican-refugees-canada-detained-1.4031389 [Accessed 18 March, 2017]

Figure 3. Dyck, D. (2015) British Columbia Premier, Christy Clark, left and Telus Corp. President and CEO Darren Entwhistle share a laugh before he announced a $1-billion investment to connect the majority of homes and businesses in Vancouver directly to a gigabit fibre optic network, during a company event in 2015. Available at: http://vancouversun.com/business/local-business/big-liberal-donors-are-doing-big-business-with-the-b-c-government [Accessed 18 March, 2017]

Figure 4. Hagberg, L. (2017) Conservative leadership candidate, Kevin O’Leary speaks at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ont. on Thursday, March 16, 2017. Available at: http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/2017/03/16/o-leary-alleges-vote-rigging-in-conservative-leadership-campaign.html [Accessed 18 March, 2017]

Figure 5. Getty Images (n.d.) Subway says its chicken is just that: chicken. But a CBC Marketplace story said it found 50 percent of the chicken is soy filler. Available at: http://www.metronews.ca/news/canada/2017/03/17/subway-plans-to-sue-cbc-over-chicken-findings.html [Accessed 18 March, 2017]

Figure 6. Wakefield, M. (2017) Two Douglas fir trees that tower behind the District of West Vancouver’s Fire Station No 4 are the subject of a legal dispute. Available at: http://www.nsnews.com/news/couple-sues-west-vancouver-officials-for-tree-removal-1.11805348 [Accessed 18 March, 2017]

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Exercise 4.3

The brief:

Create a storyboard where the image does not depend on the text and the text adds something new to the narrative.

This exercise is a light-hearted look at the role of image and text. Aim for it to be around 10 frames long. Draw the picture storyboard first and then add the text. Note how the story is affected when the text is added.

I cannot draw to save my life! So have resorted to stick men – please don’t laugh too loudly 🙂

Storyboard frames 1-4 without captions
Storyboard frames 5-8 without captions
Storyboard frames 9-10 without captions
Storyboard frames 1-4 with captions
Storyboard frames 5-8 with captions
Storyboard frames 9-10 with captions

Thinking up a storyboard is quite challenging so hats off to all those animators and film makers out there. I think my 7th, 8th and 9th frames work as relay in that there is quite a lot of ambiguity in those frames. One is not certain who is being casevaced off the mountain or transported in the ambulance, or who/what is opening the coffee shop door. The punchline is in the last frame where the action in frame 6 is revealed.

Exercise 4.2

The brief:

Choose a day that you can spend out and about looking with no particular agenda. Be conscious of how images and texts are presented to you in the real world – on billboards, in magazines and newspapers, and online, for example. Make notes in your learning log on some specific examples and reflect upon what impact the text has on how you read the overall message.

Consider:

  • Does the text close the image down (i.e. inform or direct your reading) or open it up (i.e. allow for your personal interpretation to pay a part in creating the final meaning)?
  • What do you think was the intention of the creator in each instance?

We have been blessed with epic rainfalls these last two months and I’ve been trying to catch a day where there was no rainfall, but that isn’t happening soon it seems. So what I’ve done is take a few images en route to work and a few more on a very blustery day – all from within the car. I specifically avoided taking photographs of images that surround me on a daily and personal basis as that would be too overwhelming. I’m surrounded by books at work and home (mainly cook books and my photography books) all heavily imaged, as well as the images I deal with both at work and during my studies.

What I noticed was that there was not a lot of imagery used with the text, other than in the way of logos for the most part (Fig 1 and 3).  I would probably have found more if I had walked along next to shops, or photographed into shop windows. The one place that I did find the most imagery and text used together was on the back of the buses, advertising various estate agencies. For the most part the images that I managed to photograph were directional – the signs along the beach seawall (Fig 4 and 5) were iconic explaining what was allowed and prohibited – no cycling, no skateboarding, no fishing, no smoking, no dogs  and finally a direction pointing the way where dogs on leash would be allowed. The icons are necessary due to the multicultural society we have here in Vancouver and they are clear enough for anyone to understand no matter what language or country they come from. A further explanatory ‘no dogs beyond a certain point’ sign was situated fairly close to the first sign, this one explaining the icon in clear English.

The flags along the light posts (Fig 2) featured more graphical content with some explanatory text. The first advertising the annual 5 and 10 kilometre run in West Vancouver. The front of the sign features a woman running with the relevant text and URL while the rear side of the image features the words “WestVan” to reaffirm the location. Another set of flags (Fig 6) featured on the light posts were at one of the shopping complexes. The graphic features the snowy mountains of North Vancouver with an alpine scene in the foreground with the words “Park Royal”. This sign would probably be ambiguous for a tourist or new comer to the country, but not so to the locals.

The sign for Khot-la-Cha Art Gallery (Fig 7) contained images which were backed up by accompanying captions which provide an informative role as some of the items would not necessarily be easily identifiable for the tourist. Of course road signs (Fig 8) should leave no room for ambiguity at all otherwise we would have chaos.

The graphical element in Fig 9 may be a little ambiguous for non Canadians. It may even just represent a weathered old sign reading “Yoshi’s Salmon Smokehouse”, but it is a large cedar plank with a salmon carved into it alongside the name. Salmon are frequently barbecued on planks of wet cedar to impart a smoky flavour to the fish, so this sign really alludes to the smoking process as well as informing us of the name of the establishment.

My final image (Fig 11) is of an anti-Trump protest outside the new Trump Hotel that opened on that day. Protesters have created banners and images voicing their opinions, some ambiguously stated or depicted, others leaving no doubt as to their feelings.

Fig 1
Fig 2
Fig 3
Fig 4
Fig 5
Fig 6
Fig 7
Fig 8
Fig 9
Fig 10
Fig 11

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Research Point 1

The brief:

Read ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ and write a reflection in your learning log.

  • How does Barthes define anchorage and relay?
  • What is the difference between them?
  • Can you come up with some examples of each?
  • How might this help your own creative approaches to working with text and image?

I wrote a reflection on the ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ in the Context & Narrative module which was summarized here, so I will confine my comments to anchorage and relay on this posting as I did not cover them in great detail during that posting.

In the context of today’s mass media communication every image carries some form of linguistic message. The function of the linguistic message can either be anchorage or relay. All images have any number of meanings (polysemous) which are conveyed to the viewer by means of signfiers and signifieds. Some the viewer will understand, some he/she may choose to ignore due to cultural differences or ignorances. The text in the image helps the viewer to answer the question “what is it?”

Anchorage is used mainly in press photographs and advertisements. The function of the text is to draw the viewer to a directed level of perception, thereby avoiding an incorrect interpretation of the image.

An example of this would be:

Fishing at St. Lucia, Kwa-Zulu, South Africa (c) Lynda Kuit

The caption above is directional in that it names the activity taking place as well as the location, province and country. Were the caption to be only “Fishing” or “Fishing at St. Lucia” that would leave the actual location quite wide open to questions. Is this location in St Lucia in the Caribbean one might ask if questioning the latter caption? By anchoring the text specifically to the town of St Lucia in the province of Kwa-Zulu in the country of South Africa, the viewer is left in no doubt as to the correct interpretation of the image.

Language clearly has a function of elucidation, but this elucidation is selective, a metalanguage applied not to the totality of the iconic message but only to certain of its signs.

Barthes (p. 40)

Relay is less common and is usually found in comics and cartoons as well as in film. Here the text and image stand in a complementary relationship to each other and usually require a bit more introspection to figure out the connections between the two. If I were to add the caption “Awaiting the big one” to the image above, the meaning would be quite ambiguous. The viewer would be left wondering if the text referred to the looming storm or the persistent fisherman at the shore’s edge waiting to catch his big fish of the day.

This use of anchorage and relay text can certainly play an important part in how one wants ones images to be read. Looking back at my C&N assignments I see that I have used a mix of anchorage and relay text. My assignment 3 relied totally on relay text. Looking back, except for the title of C&N’s assignment 2, I did not shoot with any caption in mind. The captions always came at the end of the editing process. I can’t really say how thinking about these approaches to text and images will affect my way of working, except that I might think a little deeper into how I want my images to be interpreted – to what level do I want to direct the viewer or leave the interpretation open to the viewer’s authorship.

Reference List

Barthes, Roland (1977). Rhetoric of the Image in Image, music, text. London: Fontana Press

Barbara Kruger

  • American conceptual/pop artist born in Newark, New Jersey in 1945. Attended Syracuse University. Developed an interest in graphic design, poetry, and writing.
  • Moved to New York to study at Parsons School of Design in 1965 studying with fellow artists/photographers Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel.
  • Her early artworks are large woven wall hangings of yarn, beads, sequins, feathers, and ribbons and exemplify the feminist recuperation of craft during this period.
  • In 1976 she moved to Berkley and attending the UoC immersed herself in the works of Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin.
  • Took up photography in 1977. Her first works were series of architectural exteriors with her own text – musings about the lives of the inhabitants.
  • She challenges cultural assumptions by manipulating images and text in her photographic compositions. With a short declarative statement, she synthesizes a critique about society, the economy, politics, gender, and culture.
  • Best known for laying aggressively direct slogans over black -and – white photographs that she finds in magazines, Kruger developed a visual language that was strongly influenced by her early work as a graphic designer (at magazines including House and Garden , Mademoiselle, and Aperture).
  • The inclusion of personal pronouns in her works like those below implicates viewers by confounding any clear notion of who is speaking.
  • Informed by feminism, Kruger’s work critiques consumerism and material culture, and has appeared on billboards, bus cards, posters and in public parks, train station platforms, and other public spaces. In recent years, she has extended her practice, creating site-specific installations in galleries and museums comprised of vinyl lettering, video, film, audio, and projection.

Graphics by Barbara Kruger at Mashup Exhibition, Vancouver

Graphics by Barbara Kruger at the Mashup Exhibition, Vancouver

Reference List

Mashup: The Birth of Modern Culture – Early 20th Century Collage, Montage and Readymade [online] Vancouver Art Gallery. Available at: https://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/pdfs/MashUp%20Early%2020th%20Century%20Collage%20Montage%20and%20Readymade.pdf [Accessed 26 February, 2017]

The Art History Archive (n.d.) Barbara Kruger – Feminist Artist [online] The Art History Archive. Available at; http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/feminist/Barbara-Kruger.html [Accessed 26 February, 2017]

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4.1 Looking at Advertisements

For this exercise we are asked to read one of OCA tutor, Dawn Woolley’s articles on advertisements and write up blog post or comment on the site in response.

I have chosen Dawn Woolley’s posting on the selfie which can be seen here. The article originates from a paper that Dawn presented at a conference where she argued that “‘selfies’ could disrupt gender and ‘ideal body’ stereotypes as well as reinforce them”. The article makes reference to a Mexican advert for Tecate beer. The ad is in Spanish so one is forced to visually look carefully at the ad and not rely on any wording.

The opening scene of the ad features a young man dressed in grey standing in a likewise grey corridor about to enter an elevator. Upon entering the elevator he immediately starts to take selfies of himself, pouting at the camera. I believe this expression is called ‘duck face’. A very gravelly voice interrupts him and he turns to look into the craggy features of Sylvester Stallone who sternly admonishes him to watch more boxing. The young man’s phone then starts ringing exuding a very girly tune and he panics and hits the alarm button on the elevator. The theme tune from Rocky then blares loudly, the scene changes to that of a panorama of a boxing tournament with the product logo displayed quite prominently on the jumbotron overhead. The scene then changes to a closeup of two brightly clad, sweating and bronzed bodies of the boxers. The final frame shows four Mexican boxing champions flanking Stallone who once again exhorts the viewer to watch boxing. Only in the final sentence by the narrator is the product actually mentioned.

According to Woolley, Mexico has produced the most boxing champions in the world and this is a national source of pride and various programs have been instituted to introduce youths to the sport and instill a sense of discipline in their lives.

The Tecate beer advertisement … is an antidote to femininity. Because the man in the advert is taking selfies it is suggested that he isn’t ‘manly’. It reinforces the idea that men’s selfies are unacceptable because they are narcissistic.

Peter Conrad in his podcast The Selfie states that ever since Narcissus we have been obsessed with overcoming the blind spot in our optical system which prevents us from seeing ourselves. he goes on to related that Freud writing about narcissism stated that narcissism is a misdirection of erotic energy which madly aspired to the immortality of the ego. A century ago Freud had classified selfie taking as a sexual perversion.

According to Conrad people are trying out various personae (when they take selfies) and in the process they may disclose some spectral, hypothetical identity. The selfie has no interest in scrutiny; it is a mode of self-advertisement, not self-appraisal.

The use of colour in this ad has significant reference. Grey is a neutral colour which ties in with the shall we call it “gender confusion” in the opening scenes. Stallone’s appearance in the elevator is very distinctive. He is dressed in a formal black suit putting his character squarely in the “very manly” category. While the boxers in the ring, their seconds and the referee are dressed in vibrant reds and blues. The very setting of the boxing ring is vibrant and alive with bright lights, reveal to the viewer that this is a place where real men come together.

I am reminded of John Berger’s words in Ways of Seeing:

A man’s presence is dependent upon the promise of power which he embodies. If the promise is large and credible his presence is striking. If it is small or incredible, he is found to have little presence. The promised power may be moral, physical, temperamental, economic, social, sexual – but its object is always exterior to the man.

Reference List

Berger, John (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books.

Conrad, Peter (2014) The Selfie Episode 9 of 17 [online] 21st Century Mythologies. BBC 4 Podcast 11 mins 59 secs. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04kfk1r [Accessed 26 February, 2017]

Woolley, Dawn (2015) Looking at Adverts: 10 [online]. WeAreOCA. Open College of the Arts. Available at: https://weareoca.com/photography/looking-at-adverts-10/ [Accessed 26 February, 2017]