Analyzing Visual Messages

Topics: September 11 attacks, World Trade Center, Photography Pages: 7 (2415 words) Published: October 21, 2014
Meliss Arteaga
Professor Bluenkrantz
Journalism 250
25 April 2014

In analyzing visual messages, I have chosen to analyze an infamous photo of five young individuals viewing lower Manhattan across the East river from Brooklyn. Meanwhile, in the background, smoke can be seen rising above the second tower of the World Trade Center. As one would expect, the event took place on September 11, 2001.Yet, what made this photo controversial was not the building collapsing, but the way in which the five onlookers seem apathetic to the devastating event across from them. Thus, a vast amount of criticism was held towards Thomas Hoepker, the photographer behind this image. One may ask, how could those people just sit there and act so indifferent to such a human event? Was it a deceiving snapshot, in which ignores the seconds before the individuals turn and set a real reaction? Surely, some citizens must have felt Hoepker was downright coldhearted for taking this shot. Perhaps, some people are comprehensive to his motives. In essence, I will thoroughly analyze this image using terms used in the eBook, “Perception” written by David Blumenkrantz. The following terms will be used as criteria: inventory, composition, visual cues, semiotic signs and codes, cognitive elements, purpose of the work, and image aesthetics. Through this criteria, I will analyze the visual message (9/11 photo) according to the following six perspectives: personal, historical, technical, ethical, cultural, and critical.

One must begin by looking at all major graphic and content if they want to analyze an image using the method “Inventory.” According to the eBook “Perception,” since many photos can be deceiving, “prior knowledge, or in its absence, research into the background of an image, is essential for a comprehensive analysis.” In other words, the more you know about what you are inspecting or discovering, the better your analyzation will be. For example, on what appears to be a waterfront or bridge across the East River, are five young people chatting and smiling while dark smoke from the collapsed twin towers can be seen from behind them. There are two onlookers facing towards three other onlookers who have their backs turned against the view of the smoke in the background. One in particular, a woman with sunglasses on almost looks like she is posing for the camera while a young man on the left side stares at her. Apparently, the second tower of the World Trade Center had just imploded, while the group of young people sat in the bright sunshine of what was a beautiful summer day. They almost look oblivious to the fact that a thick plume of smoke was rising right across from where they were located. Composition:

Gestalt’s laws of proximity come into play in this image when you look at the three young individuals who have their backs against the smoke. One gets the sense that the three of them are much closer than the other two who are in front of them. According to the chapter, “Gestalt Theory,” on the eBook “Perception,” “the brain more readily associates objects that are close to each other than those that are farther apart.” Essentially, the closer in proximity objects are to each other, the more likely it is that they will be looked at as a group. In this case, the three individuals sitting next to each other will be viewed as more closely related than someone else twenty yards away.

On the other hand, the law of common fate is applied to the picture when one takes a look at the two on lookers facing the other three. They are both facing the same direction. In the eBook “Perception,” the law of common fate states that when objects move in the same direction, people tend to see them as a unit which give us an idea that the two individuals (one with a white shirt and the other with an orange shirt) are probably closer than they are with the other three bystanders. In addition, the photographer captures the relationship of the five...
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