Ruskin once wrote, “The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something…To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, all in one”.

David Perlmutter – 8 ways to help understand an image

  1. Production – how was the image physically produced and how are elements combined within a frame
  2. Context identification – what are the major elements and what is the story being told
  3. Fictional – what is the context for the image and how was it put to use
  4. Expressional – what emotions are conveyed by the context and how are those feelings translated across cultures
  5. Figurative  – how are the symbols and metaphors employed and what are any culturally sensitive elements
  6. Rhetorical/moral – what are the philosophical justifications for making and showing the work and what are any responsibilities the producer has to the subject and viewers
  7. Societal or period – how does the image reflect the culture and mores of the time it was produced and what does it communicate to future generations
  8. Comparative – how is the image similar to previously created works and how does it fit within the body of work of the image creator.

Those all lead to universal truths. Meaning/ perceiving should be the goal of any type of visual analysis – whether for personal, professional, or cultural reasons.

The process also requires that you become familiar with the biography of an artist, the details of her culture, and her life, that led to the picture’s creation.

These 13 steps include making a detailed inventory list of all you see in a picture, noting the unique compositional elements within a frame, discussing how the visual cues of color, form, depth, and movement work singly and in combination to add interest and meaning; looking at the image in terms of the gestalt laws of similarity, proximity, continuation and common fate, identifying any iconic indexical, and symbolic signs, thinking of how the four semiotic codes of metonymy, analogy, displaced and condensed contribute to its understanding; isolating any cognitive elements that may be part of the image; considering the purpose the work might have; and wheather the image can be thought of as aesthetically pleasing.

Six principal ethical philosophies can and should be used to analyze a picture. Knowledge of philosophies is important because they help explain how actions can or cannot be justified.

Golden Rule “Love your neighbor as yourself”

Hedonism closely related to the philosophies of nihilism and narcissism “I possess; I am not possessed” If an opinion or action is based purely on personal motivation – money, fame, relationships, and the like- the modern interpretation of hedonistic philosophy is at work.

When an image-maker considers only the aesthetic pleasure, monetary gain, or possible awards a picture might bring, hedonism is the dominant philosophy.

Golden Mean Aristotle was the earliest known writer to describe the phenomenon of light noticed in a camera obscura that eventually led to a further understanding of how the eyes and the photographic medium work. The golden mean refers to finding a middle ground or a compromise between two extreme points o view or actions.

Varinta unu folosirea unei imagini color, varianta doi – nu se va folosi nicio imagine si varianta 3 este un compromis intre cele doua si anume de a folosi o imagine alb negru.

Categorical Imperative “Critique of Pure Reason” Kant established the concept of the categorical imperative.

Categorical – unconditional ; Imperative – the concept should be employed without any question, extenuating consequences or exceptions.

Utilitarianism In utilitarianism, various consequences of an act are imagined, and the outcome that helps the most people is usually the best choice under the circumstances.

Veil of ignorance Articulated by the American philosopher John Rawls in his book “A Theory of Justice” in 1971, the veil of ignorance philosophy considers all people equal as if each member were wearing a veil so that such attributes as age, gender, ethnicity, and so on could not be determined. The phrase “walk a mile in someone’s shoes” is a popular adaptation of the veil of ignorance philosophy.

Visual communication; images with messages (Visual Analysis), Paul Martin Lester

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