All posts filed under: Reading Pictures

Vanity Fair’s Gorgeous Tableaus and the Contemptuous “Bitch Face” of Advertising

Historically, Vanity Fair has done an amazing job of collaborating with photographers and stylists to create gorgeous photographic spreads with narrative depth and a rich, almost painterly qualities. (The typography has been disappointing of late but perhaps that will be addressed in a future post.) In the issues that arrived today I was dismayed to see these two spreads — Prada and Burberry — presenting large groups of models forming unified confronting human walls of “bitch Face”. Contempt has always been the theater and template for cosmetics and fashion photography. A method to degrade and humiliate consumers into purchasing products in an attempt to win over the approval of all those dismissive glares that come bundled with every issue. These spreads actually combine the contemptuous assuault with the non-verbal narrative you see so often on the covers of rap and rock CDs: “the ambush”. An insidious two prong attack.

The Huffington Post’s Treachery of Images

The homepage and section homepages of the Huffington post have an interesting format for a digital publication. It’s closer to that of a print newspaper’s front page: a bold headline over a large attention grabbing photo. What’s different and intriguing is that many of them lack any sort of lead-in or explanatory text. Just bold juxtapositions of word and image that are sometimes quite oblique. A recent favorite. Even the NYPost’s digital edition, arguably the paper that owns “front pages” from a cultural conversation perspective doesn’t go as far. They have a cascading heirarchy of images with headline overlays. One primary and two secondary stories share the prime real estate followed by four tertiary stories that flow into smaller groupings of articles down the page. There is something very modernist and non-digtal about The Huffington Post format. The big type image combo feels like paste-up, collages, or like old print ads. The mechanics at work on The Huffington Post’s front pages are actually similar to those behind the classic VW ads created by Doyle Dane …

On Computer Wallpaper Metaphors: Power, Death and the Subconscious

Since the beginning, Apple and almost all computer manufacturers have relied heavily on images of outer space (or abstractions of space) as the default for wallpaper backgrounds: Pictures of “the universe” served as a metaphor for the mind expanding potential of the computer. After upgrading to iOS7 my iPhone displayed a picture of a rippling body of water. A symbol of the unconscious. Appropriate given the inward looking emotional self involvement of mobile social media. Expansive bodies of water are also visual metaphors for death. If you analyze from an art therapy perspective it prompts the question “is Apple, as an organization feeling a sense of loss?” Maybe they are, on several levels. These things express themselves in the most subtle and subconscious ways, even on an organizational level.

Reading Pictures
Ben & Jerry’s Blueberry Vanilla Graham

An interesting layering of visual metaphors and devices. First, the use of a pastoral farm setting to reframe the processed food product as nature’s bounty and it’s origins as being “from nature”. This has become a common device to present process foods, like Lays Potato Chips, as wholesome and natural. In terms of overall structure, there is a definite narrative timeline that begins with creation (farm, farm animals) and ends with the final product being delivered to the viewer of this ad. Second, Ben & Jerry’s packaging as cornucopia (“Horn of Plenty”), a deep and boundless gift. Last and most interesting are the use of the trojan cow and catapult. These elements, at first, seem to undermine the narrative setup. If it’s a story about where the ice cream comes from, why does it end in duplicity and siege? The catapult, ready to fire, is aimed directly at the viewer of the ad. Is it a way of taunting the boundary between print page and reality? We start with real cows in the background and …