Landscape Photography, The War and English Identity Today

I found the extract from John Taylor’s 1994 book, A Dream of England: Landscape, Photography and the Tourist’s Imagination, interesting as I thought that it said quite a bit about England (the UK?) during the war as well as today. Taylor argues that in the late 1930s “it had long been conventional to look at the English landscape and see through it , as it were, to the past” (Taylor, 1994, p. 198), and moreover, that the landscape had an emotional appeal which was ‘acceptably patriotic without being too nationalistic (in contrast to warmongering fascists)’ (ditto) And, thus, the mythic history of a an unconquered country made up of old-fashioned villages with picturesque cottages, mills and old bridges was used as a rallying point for the country’s different social groups during the Second World War. Tensions over who had access to the land had become an issue during the late 19th century, but as Taylor argues, all social groups were united in their wish to save the English landscape from invaders –and through that the English way of life. (1994, p.201) Taylor uses examples from the Picture Post to show photographs were used to warn the English of the dangers of a Nazi conquest. An image of an English shepherd walking his flock through the village high street was contrasted with one of German soldiers marching through towns, for instance, (Taylor, 1994, p. 204) and where English workers were shown playing darts, their German counterparts were photographed listening to Hitler’s speeches on the radio (ditto) In addition to these mostly illustrative photographs, Taylor also shows examples of photographs used by the popular press which went beyond being mere illustrations and showed how adept people had become at reading images. During the Battle of Britain, for example, the illustrated press would show photographs of civilians looking upwards towards the sky, their line of sight ‘the civilian equivalent of military targeting’s (Taylor, 1994, p. 205) and their uplifted gazes suggesting optimism and belief in the future (ditto) As I said at the beginning, I found the text interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it is always interesting to look at how well photographs can convey a message. Secondly, I also found it interesting to compare the attitude towards the landscape in the UK to that of Denmark where I come from. It was interesting to read how closely tied to the landscape the English identity– or at least the idea or image of the perfect landscape, at least according to this writer. I do think Danes are quite attached to their rolling hills and steepled churches too, but probably not in the same way as the English are. During the war, for instance, the Danes rallied around the king rather than the landscape. There are stories of how the king would ride through Copenhagen on his horse without bodyguards, as he knew the Danish people would protect him and other stories of how the same king would wear the Star of David to show solidarity with his Jewish subjects who were forced to wear it by the Nazi occupation. Finally, I find the different attitudes the Second World War interesting. The OCA course material on landscape photography was written just a couple of years ago and yet the author chose to have the students analyse a text on photographs of wartime Britain. The text was interesting to read, but I think most Danes would feel that the text belongs to a history course rather than an undergraduate art course. Does that mean that the Second World War has had a greater impact  English identity than Danish? I would think so and I find it interesting how we as Europeans often look quite differently at shared events.

Bibliography:

Taylor, J (1994) A Dream of England: Landscape, Photography and the Tourist’s Imagination. Manchester University Press

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John Davies

I have started to look differently at photography. I used to look at the work of the different practitioners to see if it appealed to me visually; if it did not, I did not find the work of that particular image-maker interesting.

However, along with my own work becoming more conceptual, I have become more interested in the ideas behind images and even if I don’t find a body of work visually compelling, I might still find it worthwhile to investigate the ideas behind it.

After I started the landscape course, I have become quite interested in social geography and urbanism (I would love to do a project on urban regeneration), so when I read the text below in the course material, I decide to read up on John Davies.

One of Britain’s most celebrated photographers, John Davies, is closely associated with representations of the industrial and urban landscape. By juxtaposing elements of history, industry and social activity within a single composition, his images critically examine our social geography. (OCA p.

A quick Google search came up with the following:

John Davies was born in Durham in 1949 and grew up in coal mining and farming communities He studied Photography at Trent Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University) from where he graduated in 1974. Davies is known for his images of the natural environment juxtaposed against industrial elements. The photographs are usually taken from high vantage points (this influenced Andreas Gursky) with medium and large format cameras. Davies is interested in the use of public space has which has developed into a fascination with urban regeneration (or renewal) which can be seen in some of his more recent projects such as Metropoli ProjectCity State, and Cities on the Edge. He was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2008.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Davies_(photographer))

I also looked at Davies’ artist statement (see below) and highlighted the parts I found the most interesting.

 

Artist’s statement

The British Landscape project is typical of my working practice. It is a long-term ongoing project about the enormous changes that have taken place in the UK – the world’s first industrial society and the first to de-industrialise. This work is self-initiated and focuses on the industrial heartlands of Britain I attempt to create a narrative by image sequences to tell visual stories about process, change and transformation.

Much of Britain’s infrastructure and the rapid expansion of industrial cities were created through the unprecedented growth of the Industrial Revolution. By the early 1980’s, when I started this project, many of these large-scale industries and industrial communities were in terminal decline.

The British Landscape is both a coherent body of work using image as metaphor and an historical topographic survey, viewed from an independent contemporary perspective, of the remains of massive industrial and population growth and the impact of subsequent de-industrialisation, shrinkage, regeneration and experiments in planning new communities.

I show urban development through a multi-layered perspective that captures moments in the stories of a continually changing and expanding urban structure. I do not attempt to simplify the complex evolution of a post-industrial and post-imperialist society but explore our relationship to the multi-faceted layers of our urbanised landscape. I document an economy that is now divorced from geography and the evident social consequences of this.

These photographs are made deliberately in an un-sensational and often understated way to allow the viewer to draw their own conclusions and to avoid imposing my own view of urban change. I do use text purposefully alongside my images to give political, social and historical context to specific structures and places. For example, I factually describe the changes in the use of old industrial buildings that have become transformed for a ‘new economy’ of financial services, administration, retail and leisure.

A fundamental aspect of my approach to landscape is the sense of power it can symbolise and evoke. Images of land, water and sky can become metaphors, which reflect our emotional and spiritual states. But the landscape can also represent power in terms of land ownership and material wealth. It is this dual and often ambiguous representation of the metaphysical and the material in the landscape that underlies my photographic work. I believe in the beauty of truth rather than the truth of beauty even though the meaning of visual truth can be challenging and often fluid. My work attempts to raise questions about our collective responsibility in shaping the environments in which we live.

John Davies

(http://www.johndavies.uk.com/abiog.htm)

 


Thoughts on Ed Ruscha

 

My tutor asked me to take a look at Ed Ruscha’s photographs as he thought the photographer might be relevant to my work. At first, I found his recommendation somewhat surprising as I had never found Ruscha’s work particularly compelling, and if you had asked me what I thought about him, I would probably have said something along the lines of: he is an early conceptual photographer who used photography because the medium wasn’t seen as ‘artsy’, example 26 gasoline stations. To Ruscha the photographs were probably not very important which, I think, also don’t make them particularly interesting”

Now, I know a bit more and I can even see why my tutor recommended me to look at his work. This is what I found out: Ruscha was born on December 16, 1937 in Nebraska and spent his childhood in Oklahoma City but moved to Los Angeles in 1956 to study art at the Chouinard Art Institute. His early paintings was part of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s but his work which includes paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, artist’s books and films are central to Conceptual art. According to xx Ruscha’s work stand at the intersection between Pop art and Conceptual art and Twenty-six Gasoline Stations set a new precedence as an artist’s book as it was mass-produced and sold inexpensively.

What I found the most interesting about Ruscha’s work was his conceptual approach. In the case of the Twenty-six Gasoline Stations; he had thought through the whole book before he made a single photograph. That was the same approach which I used when I did my last project. I had read up on a place called Obermutten, decided how to photography the landscape (portrait format as I was planning to add text) and even written out the most of the text before I went to visit the place. Once I finally got to take photographs, it was done pretty quickly as it was just the last puzzle piece needed for the project. Today, that kind of approach is nothing new of course – after all Ruscha did it all those years ago – but I think that I hadn’t quite realised that I was following in the footsteps of the conceptualists because I do try to make my photographs interesting to look at (even picturesque if that fits the concept) which the Conceptualists usually did not.

Another part of Ruscha’s work that I find interesting is his use of text. At the moment, I find it difficult to make work that consists of just straight photography. I see some practitioners that do it really well but at least for now, that does not seem to work for me. I have been trying to think of the reason behind that, and I basically think that the gazillions of photographs out there make it difficult to add anything interesting if you do not have a very large project such as, say, Sebastiao Salgado’s GENESIS or Burtynsky’s Oil project.

So, to wrap up this blog post, I was definitely happy that I took the time to look closer at Ed Ruscha’s work.

 

http://www.edruscha.com/about-ed-ruscha/

 

http://www.tate.org.uk/about/projects/transforming-artist-books/summaries/edward-ruscha-twentysix-gasoline-stations-1963


Exercise 4.4 Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men

Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men An Inquiry Into the Cultural Meanings of Landscape Photography

by Deborah Bright published in Exposure 23:1, winter 1985 

The first thing that crossed my mind when I read Deborah Bright’s essay Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men was that it so clearly was written in the nineteen-eighties; it reminded me a lot of articles by Rosalyn Krauss, such as the one on Timothy O’Sullivan which we had to read for an earlier unit of this course. On her website Bright confirms my thoughts by commenting on her article:

With twenty years of hindsight, I can appreciate the polemical tone of the essay as an artifact of its time in the mid-1980s (raging gender wars within the Society for Photographic Education where I was active in the Women’s Caucus, an exciting energy as artists and scholars were speaking truth to power in the academy and art world and inventing new critical tools to dismantle entrenched minority privilege.

 

As Bright notes, her question at the time was: “Why are there no great women landscape photographers?” (Bright 2015) or more generally as she asks in her essay: [which] ideologies [do] landscape photographs perpetuate; in whose interests were they conceived; why do we still desire to make and consume them; and why [does] the art of landscape photography remain so singularly identified with a masculine eye. (Bright, 1985) Although the essay was written thirty years ago, it still appears to be influential and was not only chosen for this updated unit on landscape and identity, it also influenced Liz Wells when she wrote her recent book Land Matters. (Wells, 2011 p. XVII) I find this interesting as quite a few things have changed since 1985, and the question I asked myself when I read the article was thus: how many of the issues that Wright addressed back then are still relevant today and what has changed during the past three decades.

To me, the most important point of Wright’s article is her assertion that landscape is not the ideologically neutral subject that we may imagine it to be. Bright wrote at a time where as she notes:

“Whether noble, picturesque, sublime or mundane, the landscape image bears the imprint of its cultural pedigree. It is a selected and constructed text, and while the formal choices of what has been included and excluded have been the focus of most art-historical criticism to date, the historical and social significance of those choices has rarely been addressed and even intentionally avoided.”(Bright, 1985)

To support this claim, Bright gives the example of the American painter and illustrator, Norman Rockwell (1894 -1978) whose popular pictures of small-town America are not as innocent as they may seem. (Barthes would have asked what is being taken for granted) The paintings of white ‘middle America’ with its neat clapboard houses, tidy main streets and pretty protestant churches connote “small ‘town virtues’ and the ‘real America’ with its ‘law-abiding citizens’ devoted to ‘free enterprise’ and ‘social morality’ “(Bright, 1985) But if you look at Rockwell’s paintings and illustrations, this wholesome group of Americans does not seem to include people of colour or the LGBT community.

Bright is critical of the formalist approach to art and photography which was still prevalent in the 1980s. In the case of photography, this approach would emphasize the photographer’s use of elements such as ‘vantage point’, ‘time’ and ‘frame’. But focusing just on form rather than context and ‘dismissing history’, as she maintains, was a” handy strategy for ignoring differences such as gender and race in matters of representation.” (Bright 1985) Unsurprisingly, the curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, John Szarkowski, did not fare well when it came to including work by female photographers in the museum’s collection. As an art historian as well as landscape photographer Szarkoski considered those photographers who ‘intuitively discovered the plastic possibilities of their medium without regard fro prevailing aesthetic standards or any other cultural constraints’ the real artist of the medium.” (Bright 1985) However, as Bright points out, in American Landscapes a catalogue from the museum’s permanent collection, only two out of the forty photographers represented were women, which would certainly lead to the question why there were no great female photographers.

In order to try to answer this question, Bright looks at how cultural meaning is constructed and concludes that photography and film play central roles in influencing the way landscapes are perceived. (Bright, 1985) Hollywood films, in particular, had popularized the nature of the West by using it as a backdrop for Westerns and Disney nature films, and Westerns that had‘ succeeded as no other form in masculinizing he western landscape “ (Bright, 1985) To support this claim, Bright gives the example of a press release for a Western which touted, “ Away up in the Canadian Rockies, amid the mighty forces of Nature a man must be a man even to survive” (Bright 1985) This rugged ‘cowboy’ image was also projected onto the lone male photographer, who like the lone hunter, ventures into the great American wilderness to capture (shoot!) great landscape pictures. Bright argues, that the myth of the lone cowboy and the great rugged West has sold everything from cigarettes (Marlboro) to American presidents (Ronald Reagan presented himself as a rugged individual by riding his horse and chopping wood at his Santa Barbara ranch).

Today, or at least in the nineteen-eighties, the American people show a nearly religious reverence for the wilderness, according to Bright. She compares the week end and holiday visits to the national parks to pilgrimages where tourists feel compelled to take snapshot ‘nature’s mysteries’ (Bright 1985) However, as she also points out, it is easily forgotten that tourist destinations are good business and was created in part by commercial interests. With the construction of railways and later the spread of car ownership, the American government as well as private enterprises marketed the national parks and wilderness to the middle classes. And here, as Bright points out, photography played an important role. It was the glossy pictures in tourist brochures and travel agencies that persuaded people to visit the national parks. And once there, signs would be posted to show the tourists where to take the most compelling photographs of spectacular natural sights.

Brights essay was interesting to read even though I do think that the world – at least the world I am part of – has changed the last thirty years. I would say that it has become a lot more inclusive and I do not think that landscape photography is any longer ‘singularly identified with a [white middle class] masculine eye’ – photographers like Elineous Brotherus, Ingrid Pollard and Jo Spence should prove that. When it comes to the way the British landscape has been portrayed in more recent years the OCA course material put it nicely: ‘questioning the established and stereotyped images of the British landscape and its heritage has been a staple diet of practitioners over the past few decades” (OCA p.123). So, although I do think that asking ‘why there are no great female landscape photographers’ is less relevant today than thirty years ago, I still find it pertinent to ask which‘ ideologies landscape photographs perpetuate; in whose interests they were conceived and – maybe most importantly – why we still desire to make and consume them.

 

References:

Alexander, J. (2013) Photography 2, Landscape. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Bright, D. (1985). Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men An Inquiry Into the Cultural Meanings of Landscape Photography. 1st ed.

Bright, D. (2015). Deborah Bright. [online] Deborahbright.net. Available at: http://www.deborahbright.net/ [Accessed 29 Dec. 2015].

Wells, L. (2011). Land Matters. London: I.B. Tauris.

 

 


Exercise 4.3: A Subjective Voice

I would say that my attitude to ‘landscape’ has been most strongly shaped by the many different places I have lived. I am Danish, and I am sure I have been influenced by my roots; something I notice, for instance, by my attraction to the sea, but I think that it is my life as an expat that has influenced me the most. Since I was fourteen, I have lived on three different continents and in eight different countries (last year I returned to Switzerland after six years in Shanghai (China)). This has probably made me more interested in comparing landscapes and cultures than in exploring one in particular. In addition to this, I have always lived in, or close to, cities, which I think has shaped my views on landscapes as well. To me, the countryside or small towns are places you visit or travel through. Generally, I also prefer landscaped areas to wilderness even outside of cities and towns – mostly because I would probably be lost without signs and footpaths

In addition to this, I suppose that my attitude to the landscape has been influenced by my ‘lack of issues’. I may have been a foreigner most of my life, but so far this have never really been a problem. As a photographer, I even see it as an advantage as it often seems to be easier for me than for locals to explore places. ‘Friendly tourists’ are treated quite nicely in most places even if they seem a bit clueless about the local rules…. Working though this course, however, I have come to think I have probably taken a lot of things for granted which many other people may have not been able to. (I don’t think this is quite an issue, but maybe something to be aware of) It was a bit of an eye-opener, for instance, to read that photographers like Ingrid Pollard seemed to feel so out of place in the countryside of their own country. Feminism is also not really a big issue as far as I am concerned. As a Scandinavian woman born in the 1960s, I suppose that I always felt very fortunate compared to most other women in the world and I have never had the feeling that any part of the landscape would be out of reach.

So, it is probably it is probably not so surprising that I chose to write my critical review essay the typical city stroller ‘the flaneur’ or that I plan to do the project for the next unit on comparative European identities.


Assignment Three: Obermutten Here, Anywhere, Any Time: Background

The objective of this assignment was to explore how a ‘space’ becomes a ‘place’. As the course material states a place is something constructed and subjective; we make a ‘space’ a ‘place’ so to speak. As I see it, you do not necessarily need to have been to, or even to have seen all of a particular space to make it a ‘place’.Sometimes a ‘place’ is mostly in our minds which I have tried to show using the example of the small village, Obermutten, which used Facebook to make the itself a ‘place’ in thousand of people’s minds.

Very often Facebook is used to show the ‘ideal’ self, which I think is quite similar to what postcards do for tourist sites. So, I made the images for the assignment look a bit like postcards – which included writing messages from their Facebook wall next to the images. This means that the  photos are not supposed to show what life in Obermutten is really like; the Obermutten in this assignment is really more of an idea than a real, physical place.

Finally, I chose the title Obermutten, Here, Anywhere, Any Time because the idea of Obermutten’  can be visited any time from anywhere.

The text below is the introductory text which I sent to my tutor and images are underneath the introduction.

 

 

Obermutten: Here, Anywhere, Any time

 

This project explores the effect of globalisation on our notion of place and addresses how that notion can be affected by social media. The Internet has, as is so often being pointed out, transformed the way we share information; and today, social media is used, not only to build and maintain friendships, but also to construct identities of people as well as places. This is often done using sites such as Facebook where images, texts and ‘likes’ can be shared and commented on by others, regardless of where they reside – as long as they have an Internet connection. Sometimes this creates the effect that people and places thousands of kilometres away appear closer – and even more real – than those much closer to the viewer or reader.

The project, Obermutten, Here, Anywhere, Any Time, was inspired by an online article describing how the a tiny Swiss alpine village of about 80 inhabitants, located at 1800m and only reached by a one-lane dirt road, attracted worldwide attention in 2011 when the mayor of the hamlet offered to print out and hang up the Facebook picture, of anybody who liked them on Facebook. The village has now got more than 40,000 fans -many from as far away as Korea and Brazil. And even now, four years later, the community still receives many new comments and likes on their Facebook page.

The offer to hang people’s photographs on the village bulletin board was created as a Public Relations campaign for Obermutten and can, of course, be considered cultural commodification. Moreover, arguing along the lines of the French philosopher, Guy Debord’ the campagn could also be seen as an example of the ‘spectacle’ of contemporary life, which Debord describes as living vicariously through images. In his rather pessimistic book, Society of the Spectacle, he argues that ‘everything that was directly lived has moved into representation” (Debord, 1983, paragraph 1), that the ‘spectacle is not a collection of images but a social relation among people mediated by images ‘ (Debord, 1983, paragraph 4) and that that ‘one part of the world represents itself to the world and is superior to it’ ‘(Debord, 1983, paragraph 29 )

However, more than the economic or philosophical factors behind the Obermutten campaign, it is the, personal responses to it that interests me. I find it fascinating that the offer to move a person’s image and ‘like’ from the virtual to the real world can elicit a world-wide response and that such a simple act could make an unknown village a ‘place’ in the minds’ of people thousands of kilometres away. Obermutten exchanged gifts with people from all corners of the world, and not only did they receive many private visitors from abroad, they also had a delegation from Korea travel all the way up the mountain to visit them.

I have chosen to present the project as a combination of image and text, something that has been done by many practitioners before me. To name a few that may have inspired me indirectly: The Russian Constructivists used a combination of photography and text to get a political message across, as did Martha Rossler in her famous series , The Bovery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems, from 1974-75 (Marien, 2010, p.439) Among more recent bodies of work, I have found Gillian Wearing’s Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say series from 1992-93 (Campany, 2012, p. 128) as well as Kenneth Lum’s series Don’t be silly you are not Ugly from 1993 (Cotton, 2014,   p.34) inspiring

More directly, however, the series was inspired the Open College of the Art’s section on landscape and tourism as well as by the following comment on the Taiwanese digital artist and photographer, Wu Tein-Chang, by Jane Tormey in her book Cities and Photography: “Parodying Taoist scripts he creates a virtual exchange between digital imagery (representing present life) with traditional philosophical language (representing past life).”(Tormey , 2013, p. 174) It made me reflect on how our century-old habit of writing letters or postcards in long-hand and sending them by post has been – more or less – replaced by following people on social media and clicking the like button in response to what we see or read there. Thus, I have chosen copy the comments made on Facebook by hand in order to contrast this with the modern digital technology I used to photograph the Village of Obermutten.

Guy Debord never lived to see the profound changes the Internet has created in our lives, but I could imagine that he would see today’s world as even more of a spectacle than it was back in 1967 when his book the Society of the Spectacle was first published. His argument that ‘one part of the world represents itself to the world and is superior to it ‘(paragraph 29 ) may also hold true in many cases today, but in the case of Obermutten, modern media was used to create a dialogue between a small, unknown village and people from all over the world. The mayor of Obermutten actually turned the village into a ‘place’ in many people’s minds.

References

Campany, D. (2012). Art and photography. London: Phaidon Press.

Cotton, C. (2014.). The photograph as contemporary art: London: Thames & Hudson

Debord, G. (1983). Society of the spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red.

Macey, D. (2001). The Penguin dictionary of critical theory. London: Penguin Books.

Marien, M. (2010). Photography. London: Laurence King.

Tormey, J. (2013). Cities and photography. New York, NY: Routledge.

 

 

Obermutten4

 

Obermutten1 Obermutten2 Obermutten3 Obermutten5 Obermutten6 Obermutten8 Obermutten9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Exercise 4.5 Signifier, Signified, a Miele Dishwasher and a Lot More

Miele

In this post, I am going to use some of the different theories that I went through in my last post to analyse the above ad.

From the look of the advertisement for the Miele dishwasher, I think trying to analyse it from an art historical or formal point of view would not lead to any great insights. I have also excluded Hermeneutics as I think it is covered by the other methodologies, but I will try to use Iconology, ideology as well as semiotics to analyse the advertisement.

Iconology

At the first level you see a man and a women in a nice looking kitchen and dining room. Everything looks tidy and well kept and both the man and women look happy. The woman is holding up a glass, which she is looking at smilingly. She seems to be the most important person in the picture as she is standing in the centre of the image and is in focus. The man, on the other hand, is slightly out of focus and is looking at the woman looking at the glass she is holding.

At the second level, we would understand that the couple is hosting a party and that they are putting quite a bit of effort into making it a special occasion. The table is covered with a white tablecloth, the glasses are clean and matching, the canapés on the table look quite elaborate and the bottles in the wine cooler is most likely an expensive brand of French champagne. The couple seems to be getting ready for the party as the man is carrying plates to the table and the women is inspecting the glasses that have been washed in the Miele dishwasher.

At the third level you may conclude parties in this society seems to be a rather neat and tidy affair. There are no grandmothers stirring pots in the background or children playing on the floor. It also seems that caring for the dinner service and setting the table is to be done by the hosts themselves. This would indicate that the couple lives in a place and period without a lot of help to carry out menial tasks. Moreover, the couple seem to share the household tasks or at least setting the table together, which would point towards a society where men and women are seen as equals.

Ideology

A Marxist would look for signs of (economic) struggles between the upper and lower classes and would probably see this advertisement as hopelessly bourgeois. They might also argue that this couple’s success seems to be based on ownership of , mostly expensive, commodities such as the dishwasher, the matching glasses and the expensive champagne. From a post-colonial perspective it might be slightly problematic that the couple is white and Nordic looking as it could imply that people of colour would not have access to the attractive lifestyle that the Miele dishwasher is shown to be part of. The ad was placed in a Swiss cooking magazine targeting German speaking middle class home cooks who are predominantly white, however, so it would probably not raise any eye brows here. But It would be interesting to see an ad for the same dishwasher in, say, the UK where the population is more mixed. Finally, looking at the image from a feminist angle, I would say that the designers have tried hard not to show the woman as inferior to the man. The woman’s dress is not revealing and the couple seems to be working together on equal terms. It could maybe be argued that the woman is unnecessarily young and slim, but as the man in the image is too, I would not consider it sexist.

Semiotics

As the authors of Visual Communications point out, the different methodologies tend to overlap and as theorists such as Berger and Barthes were Marxists, this may also have coloured their theories or at least their interpretations. Analysing the advertisement for Miele semiotically, I would say that the dishwasher signifies discernment and success. But let me look at the image a bit more closely. The woman in the picture is young and attractive and wears a dark blue dress that manages to make her look slightly conservative without being frumpy. Dark blue is usually associated with reliability and was probably chosen to give the woman an air of authority and make it easier for the viewer to believe that the women is able to assess whether the dishwasher is washing her glasses properly. The man in the picture is playing a supporting role in the picture. He is slightly out focus and his gaze leads to the woman holding the glass in the centre of the picture. Like the woman, he is good-looking and youngish. He is dressed in a suit but has taken his tie off which might be an indication that he works in a corporate environment but that this party is a private event rather than a business function. The setting is tasteful, contemporary and most likely urban. The champagne put on ice comes across as an expensive brand and the canapés on the table look like the come from a caterer. Moreover, the appliances’ – all Miele – seem up-to-date and likely to be from an upscale brand; there is a built-in coffee maker/ milk foamer in the background and the dishwasher is able to wash long-stemmed glasses which is not always the case. Thus, to me, the Miele dishwasher connotes success and discernment– you have to be successful to be able to afford the lifestyle the ad depicts – and with success comes the ability to afford to be discerning and buy the best products on the market.

On Bathe’s ‘what goes without saying’ level, this ad is also quite interesting. It seems to be taken for granted that to be successful and discerning you need to be a young, white and heterosexual couple – somehow I could not imagine the art directors would replace the couple with two gay men in their sixties or a single black woman with three cats chasing a ball and a young child carrying the plates. It also takes for granted that people entertain in their kitchens/cum dining rooms, which is not at all the case in other parts of the world. In China, for instance, the kitchens in the homes of successful couples is mostly used by the maid and, thus, nobody cares very much whether the dishwasher (if they even bother to purchase one) makes the glasses sparkle.

I find it quite interesting to analyse images using different theories and it would probably be quite useful to step back from time to time and see what my own images actually might tell a viewer. I do realise that the ‘author has died’, of course, but also think that the semioticians and the other theorists are right to claim that we do ‘read’ images – we may just not always think about it.